Privatise tollgates to avoid corruption, mismanagement

Despite the idea of tolling being hailed as a bold effort to raise funds for the rehabilitation and maintenance of roads, lack of accountability and transparency have presented a new set of problems.

Mal-administration, misappropriation, corruption, poor control mechanisms and revenue leaks now characterize the tolling system. There is urgent need to address the diminishing confidence of both road users and citizens in general in the entire toll gate revenue collection process.

Tolling is a relatively new phenomenon in our history. There are more than 24 tollgates along the major roads. The Zimbabwe National Road Administration is supposed to manage the road maintenance fund, including the setting of tariffs, collecting, disbursing and managing the funds. Since it began in 2009, the tollgates have raised more than $15 million.

According to a report by the Ministry of Transport, 90 percent has been remitted to ZINARA and the remaining 10 percent retained as administration fees. The money was poorly allocated and little benefit has been seen.

I suggest it is time to invest in public-private partnerships (PPP). Tolling is highly regarded as a solution to shortfalls in financing, but government is unable to manage the process alone. In the majority of instances, PPPs provide the opportunity to build projects more quickly and at a lower cost. However, such partnerships require risk sharing, which must begin with an evaluation of each party’s objectives and respective ability to bear risks. In this regard, enduring tolling infrastructure must be constructed through a public-private partnership on a build, manage-and transfer basis.

According to a report by the Ministry of Finance to Parliament, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority is incurring tremendous losses from running tollgates on behalf of ZINARA. One MP boasted in the House of Assembly that his constituency had received a hefty share, which far exceeded what was actually needed. The Ministry of Transport allocated $1,8 million instead of the $400,000 which they had requested.

This raises concerns that the distribution of the money was influenced by other ulterior motives leading to the whole process being regarded as partial, inequitable and not need based, raising concerns that the money is being used for patronage and vote buying.

Removing it from the political domain, and devolving the whole process to a private partner, with strict controls, will ensure that the money is efficiently raised and used for its intended benefit. This in turn will boost public and corporate confidence and trust and eliminate revenue leaks. -Ndlovu is the Advocacy and Programmes Manager for the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association. He writes in his individual capacity. [email protected]

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