Toll gates anecdote

REVELATIONS by the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) that a total of K 1.1 billion has been realised from toll gates since 2013 is quite heartening. This shows that the idea to introduce toll gates on some of our busy and economically viable roads particularly those on the Copperbelt where there is heavy traffic was well thought out. Zambia was probably the only country in the Southern African region which never levied road users through toll fees. As a result, the state of many of our roads had been very bad prior to the PF government embarking on the massive road infrastructure development programme. Ostensibly, our road infrastructure was neglected for a long time due to non-routine maintenance by the Road Development Agency and the NRFA. Why was this state of affairs allowed to go on for such a protracted period of time? We find no justifiable reason for the delay in implementing this sustainable module of road maintenance particularly that the concept was not novel in the Southern African region. We totally concur with the observation by Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) over the manner in which the funds raised from toll gates should be expended. It is not in dispute that the sole purpose for putting up toll plazas by the NRFA is to ensure funds are generated specifically for continuous road maintenance. And we applaud the efforts made by the NRFA in raising public awareness on the need for motorists to value the payment of fees where the toll gates are mounted. Be that as it may, we think the NRFA has not done members of the public a service by not explaining how the money realised from toll gates has been ploughed back into road maintenance. The indication that money which had so far been collected by NRFA had gone back into the general pool of road development does not give a satisfactory explanation on how the funds were used. In fact, this raises serious questions as to why roads on the Copperbelt have remained in a poor state particularly where the toll gates are situated. Why has the road infrastructure remained in a deplorable state if the NRFA has indeed ploughed back the funds into road development and maintenance? It is common knowledge that one of the main causes of road carnage on the Copperbelt has been the constricted road network with heavy traffic which needs expanding to a dual carriage-way. On many occasions, promises have been made to expand these busy roads in an effort to ameliorate road traffic accidents, and it was highly anticipated that NRFA in liaison with RDA would have considered this as a top priority on the agenda. We think there is every reason for the NRFA to handle the money realised meticulously and transparently to allay fears of corruption. Therefore, the need for proper accountability cannot be over-emphasised. The sooner the NRFA expedites works on setting up the other toll gates in strategic sites such as the Kabwe-Kapiri Mposhi road, Chongwe-Lusaka, Kafue-Lusaka, Kapiri Mposhi-Serenje roads and many other areas, the better for the guaranteed road development and maintenance. The suggestion to equally set up toll gates at each border post will save our roads from perpetual ruin. Otherwise NRFA merits a pat on the back for netting that amount of money for the good our road network.