BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT has invested huge financial resources in road infrastructure development, comparative to other economic sectors in the country, through the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA).A total of K50 billion has been expended on road works from 2006 to 2018, with 75 percent of this expenditure made in the last five years.
This capital investment in road infrastructure needs to be matched with a maintenance regime.
The country has a backlog of road maintenance which, according to the 2012 road Development Agency Report, requires US$721 million per year against the US$180 million available annually.
It is the above scenario which prompted the Government to embark on a home-grown road Tolling programme as a solution aimed at bridging the annual road maintenance finance gap of the US$721 to be complemented with other innovative means of financing.
NRFA public relations manager Alphonsius Hamachila says the company has been meeting, and in some instances exceeding, targets in the collections of tolls from all collection points including ports of entry (and border points), weighbridges and toll plazas.
“In 2016, we raised K441, 761,728.64 while in the 2017 financial year, a total of K667, 658,305.60 toll revenue was raised. This performance was about 98 percent achievement against a projected annual budget of K682 million for 2017. This appreciable increase represented an improvement in the annual toll collections by 51.1 percent as compared with the collection performance in 2016,” Mr Hamachila says.
He says the annual target for 2018 is to collect at least K845 million in form of tolls which signifies a projected growth of about 26.5 percent from the actual toll collections of last year.
Mr Hamachila says NRFA’s long-term goal is to raise a minimum of K1 billion per annum in form of road tolls and the agency is optimistic that it would surpass its target for this year.
TOLL EXPANSION DRIVE
“We have continued to increase the road tolling footprint across the country. In addition to the 10 inland toll stations currently under operation in Lusaka, Central, Copperbelt, Muchinga and Luapula provinces, we shall soon commence tolling at three toll stations in Western Province between Kaoma and Mongu, Mongu and Kalabo, and between Senanga and Sesheke. In Eastern Province, two toll stations are nearing completion between Nyimba and Petauke; and between Katete and Chipata,” Mr Hamachila explains.
He says the Choma Toll Plaza will be ready soon in Southern Province while Chilonga Toll Plaza is coming up in Mpika, Muchinga Province.
“We shall also commence tolling soon at Kyabankaka Toll Plaza at Mutanda junction in North-Western Province. Other toll plazas are being constructed between Ndola and Kitwe, Kitwe and Chingola and Chingola and Solwezi. We envision to have 40 toll plazas of different sizes at the end of the construction period,” he said.
TOLLS REVENUE AND USAGE
From 2013 when road tolling commenced to date, Mr Hamachila says, K2.2 billion has been raised from the programme.
“You may wish to know that part three section 11 of the Tolls Act No14 of 2011 states that the toll or other charges imposed for the use of a toll road and collected by the Agency shall be from part of the road fund and shall be used exclusively for the construction, maintenance and rehabilitation of public roads in Zambia. In line with this legal provision, and the presidential directive on the usage of tolls, about K500 million of this revenue has been used for periodic and routine maintenance, and examples of this usage include K19.4 million for the Ndola – Kitwe dual carriageway, Kabwe – Chibombo road K30 million, all routine maintenance works taking K182 million, and force account emergencies K46.6 million, among others,” Mr Hamachila says.
He says the NRFA has spent K730 million of tolls revenue for road rehabilitation and upgrading with K55.4 million disbursed for the Kazungula bridge project, Chingola-Solwezi K66.9 million, Kawambwa-Mushota road K73.6 million, Pedicle Road K22.6 million, Mongu, Ndola and Luanshya urban roads K70 million, road safety expenditures K488 million and toll corridor feeder roads K11 million, among others.
Mr Hamachila says a critical element of road tolling is to enhance strong systems and controls and instil the necessary trust and confidence.
“In this regard, the NRFA has invested in state-of-the-art toll systems with video transactions for every transaction. This system is open to audits on the collections made against all video transaction records,” he says.
Further, Mr Hamachila says NRFA has installed a control centre at its head office in Lusaka, which allows visual surveillance of toll operations and transmits live feed of all activities at the interconnected toll stations to head office in real time.
VISITS BY OTHER COUNTRIES
Zambia, through the NRFA, has become a learning hub for road tolling with Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi and Namibia having undertaken separate study visits to pick on the ground knowledge and experiences in road tolling.
Recently, the Agency hosted the African Road Maintenance Funds Association Southern Africa Focal Group (ASAFAG) workshop and showcased its successes in road tolling to the eight regional ASAFAG member countries.
Minister of Finance Margaret Mwanakatwe took advantage of the study visits by calling on road funds in southern Africa to think outside the box and explore innovative financing solutions for road infrastructure development.
In a speech read on her behalf by Secretary to the Treasury Fredson Yamba at the official opening of the workshop, Ms Mwanakatwe said road funds were entrusted with a huge resource envelope which was not enough to bridge the widening gap for road maintenance.
She said the primary focus for Zambia, like most of Africa, had been improving and maintaining existing major international trade corridors, while tapping into home- grown solutions for innovative financing of road infrastructure development.
She noted that the ASAFAG workshop was a reflection of the unity of purpose and a realisation that roads are very important in the social and economic integration of the region and the wider African continent.
ASAFAG is an arm of the ARMFA, a 32-member continental body whose governance structure comprises Southern, Western, Eastern, and Central African Focal Groups.
ASAFA aims at providing a networking platform for member countries. Ms Mwanakatwe said Zambia has used the platform to embark on the road tolling programme with established internal systems and controls, giving stakeholders the trust and confidence that tolls has properly accounted for and utilised for road maintenance, construction and rehabilitation as per clause 11 of the Tolls Act number 14 of 2011.
“Road tolling in Zambia is still in its infancy but from the time the programme commenced in 2013 to date, K2.2 billion or US$220 million has been raised from which we have financed major road projects, including the ongoing construction of the Kazungula bridge at the border between Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Once completed, the Kazungula bridge would facilitate regional trade, commerce and investment through improved efficiency or transit traffic and reduction on the prolonged period of time that local and international freight would have to spend on either side of the border,” Ms Mwanakatwe said.
NRFA chief executive officer Wallace Mumba urged the ASAFAG to be committed to the principles of the association and support all the deliberations which would result in an appropriate agenda for action for the respective road funds anchored on innovative financing for road infrastructure.
The workshop, whose theme was Innovative financing of road Infrastructure, ran from June 19 to 22, 2018.
BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka