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$7 billion to upgrade tollgates infrastructure

by Staff reporter
18 Jun 2022 at 07:24hrs | Views
THE Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) has set aside $7 billion for the upgrading of all tollgates across the country as part of efforts to plug revenue leakages and improve efficiency.

Most tollgates across the country had been subject to lax systems resulting in some errant motorists passing through without paying toll fees including delays to few access points.

Addressing parliamentarians and other stakeholders during a workshop in Bulawayo on the progress made in the fight against corruption, Zinara board chairperson, Dr George Manyaya, said most tollgates are congested with the current infrastructure failing to cope with the huge volume of traffic.

He said a total of $7 billion will be channelled towards upgrading the infrastructure, which will see Zinara increasing lanes and improving ICT.

"There are numerous complaints from motorists in terms of accessing tollgates where you always have queues resulting in delays. We are working on addressing that challenge and have developed a frequent traveller pass," said Dr Manyaya.

He said Zinara is investing in tollgate rehabilitation to counter traffic, improve efficiency and avoid revenue leakages.

"We are, however, also cognisant that even if we upgrade ICTs in all our tollgates, but as long as we have few access points, nothing will change. What we have done with our ministry is that we have set aside $7 billion for the upgrading of all the tollgate infrastructure so that we have toll plazas with three to four access points."

Dr Manyaya said Zinara is also working on rolling out e-tolling systems and automation of abnormal and overload systems.

"We now have CCTVs at our tollgates and we are also trying to introduce e-tolling at our tollgate infrastructure to reduce operating costs from toll fees collection processes, which entails introduction of pre-payment models to reduce the time taken at the tollgate," he said.

According to Zinara toll fees collection processes gobble about 18-30 percent of the total revenue, a somewhat high figure, hence efforts to introduce the e-tolling facility.

In historical terms, toll fees collections totalled $1,2 billion in 2020, 556 percent higher than the $183 million realised in 2019, meaning the collection process chewed a huge chunk of inflows.

Zinara is, however, still dependent on agents like Intertoll and Univern for the toll fees collections. E-tolling is a cashless system that allows road users to make payments for road use with card facilities or e-tags at tollgates, allowing payments without vehicles having to stop. The process does not require physical toll booths on the highways.

Dr Manyaya said they have since reviewed some of the unfavourable contracts that they had with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), Intertoll and Univern.

"All these contracts have been reviewed and we have signed with DBSA and we are now waiting for the official signing ceremony. Two weeks ago, we reviewed the Univern contract, which was just a contract with no stop. We have agreed that all parties from the Cabinet to us are ending 2025," he said.

Zimbabwe awarded Group Five, a South African firm to rehabilitate 882 kilometres of road, which began in 2012 and funded to the tune of US$206 million loan acquired from DBSA. Under the deal, the money for loan repayment should come from tollgate fees collections.

Dr Manyaya said Zinara has also managed to address the issue of unqualified people who were recruited through nepotism.

"I call safely to tell you that all positions are being advertised in adherence to our minimum specifications and skills audits are underway. As we are doing these skills audits, we are seeing people who are even going to Zimsec to have the certificates verified and some people had fake certificates," he said

"We have stopped some of these allowances including the topical hair allowances and gym equipment. In terms of engagement with contractors, we are saying that Zinara is now sticking to its sole mandate of collecting and disbursing funds to 92 road authorities," he said.

Dr Manyaya said all the high value purchases are now being processed through tender processes and get approval from the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ).

Dr Manyaya said they have embraced gender sensitivity hence recruitment of 45 percent female as part of efforts to empower the girl child.

Other stakeholders who attended the workshop and made presentations included officials from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), police, Zimra, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc).

It also emerged during the meeting that out of 254 cases being handled by NPA, a majority of them are from Harare.
A total of US$50 million was also recovered from conviction-based asset forfeiture in 2021. Police said they arrested 495 suspects for corruption related cases in 2021.

Source - The Chronicle