‘$5bn for roads rehabilitation conservative’

via ‘$5bn for roads rehabilitation conservative’ – DailyNews Live 4 March 2015

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s $5 billion budget for road construction and rehabilitation is a “conservative figure”, given the $1 million per-kilometre cost of building highways, analysts say.

This comes as global studies have shown that bad roads were increasing the cost of delivered goods and Transport minister Obert Mpofu has said Africa needs about $90 billion to overhaul its infrastructure over the next 10 years.

In response to Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) chairman Albert Mugabe and Transport secretary Munesu Munodawafa’s statements that the country needed about $5 billion to redo its roads, Christopher Mugaga said it was difficult to put a specific figure on the monies required for infrastructure development at any given time.

“The current state of infrastructure in Zimbabwe is as a result of multiplier effect of economic activities. As such, the government must attract more investment into the country and the more revenue Treasury gets, the more money government will spend on capital projects,” the Econometer Global Capital head of research said.

While Mugabe has stated that bad roads and associated infrastructure throttled freight movements as well as compound logistical inefficiencies in the region, the Zinara boss has said big international brands and investors are needed to help with this infrastructural revamp.

This comes amid swirling rumours that one of South Africa’s big construction giants, including Aveng, Basil Read and Group Five, was in the frame to land the contract of redoing the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu road — a position fuelled by Mpofu’s remarks at the weekend.

Even, though, Zinara has met its three-year $200 million revenue target to last year, the agency still falls far short of the $5 billion tab for the highway rehabilitation programme or initiative.

With its funding streams listed as vehicle licensing, fuel levy, presumptive tax and abnormal load fees, road access, transit and the Limpopo Bridge management fees, the Moses Juma-led organisation has partly met its short-term revenue target through the 26 cash collection points nationwide under the Intertoll, and ZimToll arrangements.

While Zinara has had a steady stream of income under the globally-acclaimed user-pay principle and practice — also in use in industrialised nations like Japan and the United States — it still requires further support to enable it to fulfil such projects as the Plumtree-Mutare road.

Amid consensus by the 34 African Road Maintenance Funds Association (ARMFA) members that funding has never been enough, the parastatal’s 2015 plans to introduce 10 more tollgates along the country’s major highways must be applauded.

Addressing the continental body’s annual general meeting in Victoria Falls last week, Juma said Zinara was on course to commissioning the 820-kilometre road by April after completion of most major civil works and nine toll gates on the route.

Funded by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the $207 million private-public sector partnership with Group Five saw stretches of the east-west traffic artery being widened, rehabilitated and resealed over 36 months.

Under the April 2012 project, at least nine state-of-the-art plazas were erected on the route — with seven of them fully operational and the two outstanding at 98 percent completion level.

At the ARMFA meeting, Zinara also got commendations for the manner in which it had managed the six-year transition from a manual system to where everything has virtually been computerised now.

“The transition from Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) to Zinara was a fairly smooth one as Zimra was willing to share information as well as documentation. At takeover, Zinara crafted its own work flow procedures and documentation,” Juma said.

“…together with its partners, Zinara developed a computerised collection system which greatly improved revenue collection… by over 80 percent, auditability, (elimination of) counterfeit receipts, while real time vehicle and revenue statistics are now available,” he said.

While the 13-year-old organisation did not have the capacity and means to run such a complex task — hence it contracted the Zimra on an agency basis — it has quickly recovered, and upgraded its systems that it has become the envy of many regional countries now.

The company’s inimitable system, meanwhile, was developed with Southern Regional Trading Company and Univern. It has an automatic number plate-recognition camera linked to the country’s vehicle database, thus showing whether a vehicle is licensed or not via satellite link or fibre technology

“The plazas have insulated walls, which reduce power consumption, fitted with… light sensors (and) impact attenuators, which act as crash barriers, and all booths bullet proof windows…,” the acting Zinara chief executive said, adding one of the major advantages of their system was that it reduced leakages to zero and enhancing traffic reconciliations by almost 100 percent.

According to officials, ZimToll and Intertoll are also in the process of being integrated as well as the international transit component or flow to the national system in order to maximise fee collections.

While Mugabe has emphasised that computerisation was key to successful road fund management, Juma said tolling had brought many benefits to the country, including self-sufficient toll gates and ring-fenced cash to repay the DBSA loan and employment creation under the Infralink project.

The tolling arrangements have also enabled or facilitated the procurement of 80 motorised graders to repair 30 500 kilometres of rural roads, thus demonstrating Zinara’s importance in the country’s socio-economic developmental agenda.