Tollgates dotted around the country have so far raised US$5,3 million.
The money from the gates was meant to resurface roads, patch up potholes and finance the construction of temporary shelters at the designated tollgate points. To date not even a kilometre of the country’s highways has been repaired due to the dispute between Zinara and Zimra.
Zimra collects tolls on behalf of Zinara, but the roads authority officials are not part to teams who police the gates.
Frank Chitukutuku, Zinara chief executive officer, said lack of a mechanism for the authority to monitor and control the fees inflows presented challenges for accounting and control purposes.
“There is no mechanism for Zinara to monitor and control the inflows, for example, the printing of tickets,” he said. “For accounting and control purposes, Zinara should procure and record the tickets and then allocate them to Zimra.”
Chitukutuku is proposing that permanent toll gates be constructed through a public-private partnership on a build, operate-and transfer basis.
Speaking during a question and answer session in parliament last month, Finance minister Tendai Biti said: “I need to say that there should be methods to make sure that the tollgate fees collections are more transparent. Cabinet should make sure that leakages are minimised.”
The country presently has 22 tollgates whose rudimentary structures reportedly need urgent attention.
Light vehicles are charged US$1 at the toll gates. Buses pay US$3 and lorries pay US$5.
According to the Transport ministry, of the total money collected, 90% has been remitted to Zinara with the remaining 10% being retained as administration fees.
Chitukutuku said there was continued discontent and scepticism by road users about tolls being levied and collected by Zimra, which has been empowered to do so by Statutory Instruments 39 and 122.
Transport and Infrastructural Development ministry secretary, Partson Mbiriri, was last week quoted saying monthly toll collections ranged between US$1,2 million to US$1,4 million but he noted that the amount was too little to repair the trunk roads most of which need over US$600 000 a km for repairs or resurfacing.
According to a report by the World Bank released last month, Zinara is mandated to manage the road maintenance fund including the setting of road-user tariff levels, collection of the funds, disbursement of the funds to road agencies and the monitoring of the usage of such funds.
“The key fund raising instruments have been fuel levy, transit fees, overload fees and abnormal load fees,” the World Bank said.
Fuel levy accounts for 45% of Zinara’s revenue and has been the main source of revenue for the authority
“The introduction of toll gates in August and the decision to remit vehicle licensing fees to Zinara will significantly boost the road-user revenues,” said the World Bank.
Total projected revenue for 2009 is US$15 million. A total of US$12 million was to be allocated to the road agencies, with 31% of the funds going to the department of roads, 34% to rural district councils, 16% to urban councils and 19% to the District Development Fund.
In a brief breakdown of what the money raised from motorists has been used for, the transport ministry recently said the construction of the provisional toll gate shelters was already under tender.
The ministry said five of the country’s tollgates would be widened at a cost of US$620 000; eight provinces would share US$1 million for routine maintenance of regional and primary roads where the toll gates are positioned. US$280 000 would be used for resurfacing eight km of the Bulawayo-Beitbridge road; US$54 782 is being used on traffic counts being carried out at toll gates as means of verifying the fees being collected by the Zimra and the rest has been earmarked for constructing temporary shelters at the sites.
Currently, it costs US$600 00 to rehabilitate one km of tarred road.
According to the World Bank report, there are 88 300 km of classified roads of which about 15 000 are paved. 5% of the network is classified as primary roads and has some of the most traffick arterials that link Zimbabwe with its neighbours.
It is estimated that the entire road network would require US$1,8 billion or 5% of the road asset value to restore it to good condition and an additional US$160 million annually for maintenance.