Hoima Central Market is no different from the confusion exhibited in other markets across the country.
The two-storey modern market which was commissioned on October 7, 2014 at a cost of sh11b under the Market and Agriculture Trade Improvement Project (MATIP) to date faces challenges of poor sanitation, unpaid water and electricity bills.
The water and electricity have in the past been on and off rendering vendors to vacate the market early because of the darkness. Others have left to rent elsewhere.
The Albertine Journal has learnt that the market owes Umeme Uganda sh16m and National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) sh32m which they have failed to pay over time.
On January 31, vendors staged a peaceful demonstration over power disconnections. They said many of them had just paid for power two weeks earlier before it was cut off.
Despite the Market having three gate collectors and 8 cleaners who are paid by the city authorities to ensure trade order, enforce health and hygiene, control illegal vending and collect the compulsory market charges, there are still uncoordinated operations of the market leadership and council.
Lack of enforcement has led others not to pay their bills on time.
Hoima central market has 342 stalls with extra vendors also displaying their merchandise in the free spaces inside the market, 183 lock-ups and the exceptional Kawolongojjo shoe centre dealing in wholesale and a min-supermarket and more than four restaurants.
At least more than 500 vendors operate inside the market on a daily basis. This means that if all stalls and lock-ups paid the market rent, this would rake in sh14.4m per month.
And if half of the 500 vendors paid for a 20-litre jerrycan at sh300 and utilised the wash rooms daily for a sh300 per visit a month, sh4.5m would be realised.
According to an insider, on a good day, at least sh250,000 is realised as gate entry fees alone.
A big sack of any commodity measuring 100 kilograms and above is charged at sh2,000 and the smallest item sh1,500 as gate entry fees.
A vehicle loaded with goods like watermelon, sugarcanes, Irish potatoes and cassava, among others, within the market premises is charged sh20,000.
“This means money to pay for the utilities would no longer be a problem. We want to know where the money goes?” one vendor remarked.
Vendors quipped about a selective application of the policies during compulsory acquisition of electricity sub-metres in lock ups.
This has left many lock-ups without power sub-metres and if they are there, some are not functional.
“This in turn makes power payments difficult as the units consumed by such people are just estimated.”
A female vendor said they are forced to pay twice for electricity in one month though the market is on a post-pay electricity system which they pay as their businesses cannot operate without it.
“There is no proper record keeping, for all the period I have spent in this market, I have never seen any single receipt issued to me by the market authority after paying for any service since 2018,” a vendor told The Albertine Journal.
Another vendor on condition of anonymity alleged that there is no proper communication between the market authority and the vendors. No meetings are conducted, managements come and go without notice.
“The only indicator is when a new person introduces him or herself as a new market master while asking for market dues.”
There is always delays in emptying the septic tank at the central market which leaves the faecal matter flowing in the market and around the parking area one of the reasons vendors hinged on to temporarily close the market.
Vendors said the market needs rehabilitation, the reserve tanks leak water through the walls and destroy their goods especially those dealing in electronics.
Nicolas Musinguzi, the public relations officer of Kangabaije advocacy group for development alias Mucakazi asks for an inquest into the goings in the market to establish if they remit the collected funds to the consolidated central government account.
The Market Chairman, Edward Kamukumba, said the increase in the market arrears were due to the COVID-19 when traders were prohibited from paying utilities by government for a period of two years.
He expresses disappointment with NWSC, saying that although the market harvests enough rain water, they (NWSC) still connected it on the same grid with tap water but the bill has not reduced in any way.
Bosco Muhanuzi, the Hoima East City Division Mayor, says since vendors have less capital, they cannot be handled with too much pressure rather the authority is engaging the issue in a win-win situation.
He said the situation now is being sorted compared to how it was in 2021.
Muhanuzi said vendors who were refusing to pay market dues have been made to sign a three-month ultimatum tenancy agreement and of which failure to comply they will be kicked out of the market.