There is urgent need to address the diminishing confidence of road users in the entire toll-gate revenue collection process through inculcating a culture of accountability and transparency.
Ever since their introduction in 2009, toll gates have been generating an average of US$1,5 million on a monthly basis. Of the money collected, 90% has been remitted to the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) with the remaining 10% being retained as administration fees.
However, problems of revenue misappropriation, mal-administration, corruption, politicisation and outright greed continue to dog the entire process. As Zimbabwe comes of age in its tussle with diminishing public funds to meet the demands for a new and improved transportation infrastructure, it is increasingly becoming important to invest more and more in public/private partnerships (PPP).
Tolling is highly regarded as a solution to shortfalls in financing, but a new set of problems that have presented themselves have greatly imperilled government’s ability to manage the process alone. Public-sector initiatives are thus needed and should be viewed as having the potential to improve quality of life at a reasonable cost, through implementing transportation solutions that can improve quality of life for the public by providing relief and creating economic development opportunities.
In the majority of instances, PPPs provide the opportunity to build projects more quickly and at a lower cost; such as the completion of the needed tolling infrastructure. 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.
There has been a growing public outcry that the distribution of the proceeds from the toll gates has been undemocratic and inequitable. Our roads remain in a horrific state while Zinara and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) continue with their endless disputes.
Against this backdrop, there is an urgent need for the tolling franchise to be awarded to cities or municipalities to take over the responsibility of collecting tollgate revenues in order to ensure that the money is used for its intended purpose. This would also aid stakeholder monitoring and tracking, which is highly critical.
In instances where revenue exceeds specified levels, a portion of the excess would then go to the state to boost the state’s ability to support other projects. Government would not only offer minimum revenue guarantees but also prescribe the maximum annual rate of return. This will ensure that the money is used towards its intended benefit. This has the potential of boosting public and corporate confidence thereby eliminating revenue leaks.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association.