The Sunday Mail
Debra Matabvu —
Local authorities could soon be relieved of their road maintenance mandate if Cabinet endorses new regulations to curb abuse of Zimbabwe National Roads Administration funds.
The regulations being steered by the Transport and Infrastructure Development Ministry will see Government dealing with contractors directly.
Presently, Zinara disburses money to rehabilitate urban and rural public infrastructure to local authorities but the ministry says the latter have been diverting funds to other uses.
Transport Minister Dr Joram Gumbo told The Sunday Mail, “We are looking at paying contractors directly. For instance, when a council identifies a road that needs to be repaired, we will look for a contractor and then pay them for that work.
“This has been necessitated by some local authorities that have been misusing funds remitted to them by Zinara. Funds for road rehabilitation have been diverted to other purposes by these councils. Local authorities have been complaining that the funds from Zinara are inadequate.
“However, we have never seen the repairs they’ve done using that money. For instance, what has Harare done with the US$1,7 million it received from Zinara? Some local authorities have been receiving US$300 000 but have never raised that kind of money themselves. So, we are working on the issue and will inform them in due course.”
He went on: “If you go to Bulawayo, for example, you will see a different picture. They might have problems here and there, but they are doing something about it after getting about US$900 000. In Harare, there is no evidence that they are trying to rehabilitate roads.
“They can’t even do road markings yet they collect money from motorists daily. They always say Zinara is not giving them money. Go to any other town and you will see what local authorities there are doing with the little they receive from Zinara.
“We have given Zinara a revenue target of US$200 million this year, and it will be a miracle if that target is met. People forget that we have debts that need servicing. We constructed the Mutare-Plumtree Road through a loan and money from tollgates is servicing that loan.”
Urban Councils’ Association of Zimbabwe president and Harare mayor councillor Bernard Manyenyeni responded, “We have not yet received any information regarding that matter. What Zinara has only told us is that they are still looking for funds for road rehabilitation.
“I will not dignify (the minister’s) remarks because they are an insult. We don’t have money and that million they gave us is not enough. Before the rains, we needed US$200 million, but now with the rains, our engineers say we now need US$600 million.”
In 2014, Zinara allocated US$60 million to urban and rural road rehabilitation, and US$50 million was disbursed in 2015. The figure was US$48 million in 2016, and roads authorities expect to get US$64,4 million from the 2017 National Budget.
Some councils have been advocating for the reintroduction of road levies.
Harare, for instance, collected roughly US$9 million per year when it collected a road levy, but received US$1,2 million from Zinara last year.
Government has declared the capital’s roads a disaster, and has moved in to assist with rehabilitation.