Editor's Comment

Government fleet controls to save more

FILE: MINISTER of Works and Supply Felix Mutati talking to a driver during an operation aimed at curbing abuse of Government vehicles on Great North Road. PICTURE: COLLINS PHIRI

FOR Government to effectively deliver on its promises for a better Zambia, it needs an efficient transport system, among other key resources.
In recognition of this fact, Government, under different regimes, has endeavoured to acquire and maintain a fleet of vehicles to allow for easy mobility and service delivery.
It is, however, sad that some of the people given responsibility for these resources have instead abused them, thereby costing Government a lot of money in fuel and maintenance.
Abuse of Government vehicles has over the years become endemic.
It has for a long time been a norm to see Government vehicles on roads after work hours and on weekends ferrying all sorts of goods away from official duty.
In many instances, Government vehicles were spotted packed at drinking places at awkward hours, with no one seemingly caring.
More often than not, one would also spot the vehicles ferrying building materials to some sites, with reckless abandon.
Besides using vehicles for personal errands, it is also common practice for some crooked drivers to rip the cars of new parts and replace them with obsolete ones.
Such dubious practices have caused Government to bleed colossal sums of money through frequent maintenance, repair and fuel costs.
For instance, when a Government worker decides to use the vehicle beyond the work hours, it is Government that bears the cost of fuel and tear and wear.
It is common knowledge that humans tend to care less for things that do not place a direct financial obligation on them.
Given that it is Government that foots bills for fuel and maintenance of public vehicles, abusers will not care about the mileage covered and tear and wear caused.
With such high levels of abuse, it is not surprising that transport costs are rated number five on the Government expenditure list.
In April this year, Minister of Works and Supply Felix Mutati embarked on a campaign to clamp down on abuse of public transport on weekends and after hours across the country.
Four to five months down the line, the control measures put in place have resulted in a huge saving of K400 million.
This is not only commendable but a great opportunity to invest the money in poverty reduction programmes, among other needy areas.
K400 million is a huge saving and more, especially that it is just over a period of four months.
The saving indicates the extent to which Government was bleeding financial resources.
How much was Government losing per annum? Extrapolation shows that Government was losing over K1 billion annually.
It is, therefore, commendable that ministries of Works and Supply and Transport and Communications have now joined forces to roll out the national enforcement of control of government vehicles.
Through an operation called joint traffic enforcement, controller of government transport and Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) will increase their presence on all roads across the country.
As rightly pointed out by Mr Mutati during the launch in Kabwe, the MoU between the two ministries is a milestone achievement towards elimination of abuse of Government vehicles.
“We are optimistic that the joint traffic operation will enable us to move towards complete elimination of abuse of government vehicles. A transport cost is on number five in terms of government costs. We are therefore doing everything possible to ensure that government stops spending monies unplanned for on the maintenance of vehicles,” Mr Mutati said.
Certainly, we cannot continue to spend unjustifiably huge amounts of money on transport neglecting many other needy areas.
While an effective transport system is necessary for Government to deliver on its promises, if not managed in an efficient way it can become a stumbling block to development.
It is good that Government has gone beyond monitoring use of vehicles to scrapping of personal-to-holder vehicles for public service workers, including permanent secretaries and presidential aides.
Purchase and maintenance of personal-to-holder vehicles is no doubt one of the areas that were costing Government huge sums of money.
Given the amount of money saved within a short period of time, it is envisaged that much more money will be saved through the new initiatives.
We are optimistic that combined efforts between Ministry of Works and Supply and that of Transport and Communication will help eliminate Government fleet abuse and subsequently lead to more savings which can be channelled towards the socio-economic development of the country.

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