Govt has never misused toll gate money – Chitotela

Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela has assured Zambians that all resources raised at toll gates is reinvested back into rehabilitation and maintenance of roads.

And Chitotela says money that is collected from toll stations has the cleanest audit record in the country because it is monitored by donors and the entire central government at the Ministry of Finance.

Recently, Chitotela announced in Parliament that government had raised K2.2 billion from toll gates since their introduction in 2013.

However, CSPR executive director Patrick Nshindano and other stakeholders challenged Chitotela to give a proper breakdown of how this money had been utilized,

Reacting to these calls in an interview, Chitotela said assured citizens that the funds had been used for their intended purpose.

He said all the money collected had been reinvested back in road rehabilitation and maintenance, explaning that government was yet to start reinvesting the money in road construction.

“Tolling begins from the ports of entry, weigh bridges and toll plazas. For the money collected from toll plazas, I have given authority to the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) as inland toll lead agent on behalf of RDA to collect from toll plazas while RTSA collects on behalf of RDA on the ports of entry. And the largest contributor to tolling is money collected from the ports of entry since the collection began. Then RDA has retained its mandate to collect at weigh bridges. So far, money collected from the total tolling, immediately the money is collected, all the collecting agencies have been instructed that that money should not stay with them for more than 48 hours. Why 48 hours? We have taken into consideration weekends, so that’s the maximum they can stay with money to allow banks to open. And immediately the collecting agencies deposit in Control 99 under Ministry of Finance, within a reasonable period, a computation is done and money is transferred to a road sector agency that is domiciled at the Bank of Zambia, which is held by the National Road Fund Agency,” Chitotela explained.

“After Ministry of Finance has done the computation and after money has been collected, there is also a contribution that government tops up and usually the government contribution is larger than the money that is collected from the tolling programme. Then NRFA receives what is called interim payment certificate for contractors that are engaged in road construction and maintenance from RDA. They process the payment to Bank of Zambia, which later on releases money to various commercial banks where contractor accounts are held. Money doesn’t even go to RDA or NRFA but it is held in account domiciled at Bank of Zambia for proper accountability.”

Chitotela hastened to state that money collected from toll stations had the cleanest audit records of all government resources because it did not pass through any individual’s bank account.

“If there is money that has even had a clean record under auditing, its the road sector fund national account. This is because it is an account that is monitored by the donors, it’s an account that is monitored by everybody under Ministry of Finance because money goes into control 99 which is controlled by the central government at the Ministry of Finance. So I want to assure the Zambian people that money that is collected is invested back in the road rehabilitation, road maintenance and road construction. From the time it begun, money has been invested back in two sectors, that is road rehabilitation and road maintenance. We have not yet invested in road construction where we begin a new road from the tolls. But if people want to check right now, they can look at how much money was spent on the maintaince of Kitwe-Ndola, Kitwe-Chingola and Chingola-Solwezi roads. If you go to Southern Province right now, we are rehabilitating Kazungula to Sesheke road. If you go to Eastern Province, we are rehabilitating the township roads in Katete. We are also rehabilitating Chipata-Vubwi road though the pace is not impressive. We are also doing Katete- Chadidza road,” said Chitotela.

“If you go to Muchinga, there are roads that are being rehabilitated, if you go to North-Western right now we are doing roads in Mwinilunga districts. We also also doing roads in Solwezi. So the money that comes is directly paid to the contractors that are engaged in various road rehabilitation, that’s why you can see that today, obviously if people are genuine, they would agree that the works in the road sector have jumped as compared to the period before the 2016 elections. A number of projects that stalled have been kick started and there is a lot of activities going on across Zambia. Drive around in every province you will find a project in road rehabilitation and road maintenance. If you check, the roads are being cleared, if you walk around in Lusaka you will find that there are those small companies which have been given to sweep, that is part of making sure that our roads are clean and port-holes are not developing so that our road users get benefit for their money. So we want to assure the Zambians that investing back their money in the road sector is 100 per cent. That is none compromise, that is the position of government that every money that is collected from the road sector is reinvested back into the road sector.”

         

Mirriam Chabala

About Mirriam Chabala

Mirriam Chabala is a Zambian journalist who covers current affairs and writes in-depth feature articles on social issues.
Email: mirriam [at] diggers [dot] news

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