27 Jul 2011 - Story by Desie Heita
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WINDHOEK â€" The Roads Authority (RA) wants over N$1 billion in annual funding to clear the backlog of mandatory maintenance on public roads.
The State-owned public road management company says the funds it receives are nowhere near the actual costs required. The company is unable to generate sufficient money from its operations because road user charges "continue to be below the inflation rate".
The backlog would cover expenses for the maintenance of all public roads from gravel to tarred roads. To adequately address the problems, the company requires an annual budget of N$1,6 billion.
However, funding currently is at 33 percent of the required amount â€" about N$548 million. During the last financial year, the RA was only able to do rehabilitation work worth about N$431 million.
"The continuing trend of under-funding regarding periodic maintenance of unsurfaced roads and rehabilitation of existing surfaced roads, is creating additional challenge for [the company] to meet its maintenance challenge," it states in its latest financial report.
During the past financial year, the RA generated N$278 million in total revenue, up 18 percent over the preceding financial year. Of this amount, N$241 million or 89 percent, came from road user charges that include vehicle licensing, temporary and special permits issuance.
Namibia's registered vehicle population is over 237 000 automobiles making use of over 44 000 kilometres of the road network, where gravel roads take up the longest distance at 25 000 km. The Bitumen road network only stretches to slightly above 6 000 km and earth graded road distance is about 9 000 km. RA warns that without additional funds, it would not be able to keep the entire road network in its current status as "one of the best road networks in Africa and competitive by international standards".
Worse is that the maintenance backlog is expected to keep growing, as available funds are allocated to the most pressing areas.
"If this trend of not allocating sufficient funds to the road network continues, the consequences will be disastrous and Namibia would lose this beautiful road network," says the authority.
The number of registered vehicles using the road has gone up 6,85 percent over the preceding year, with Windhoek registering the most vehicles at 110 956 automobiles.
Oshakati registered the second most vehicles at 15 909 cars. The number does not include the 12 916 cars registered at Outapi, Ondangwa, Eenhana, and Opuwo. Walvis Bay and Swakopmund came in with 14 247 vehicles and 13 79 respectively.
Licensed drivers increased by 4,8 percent to 183,560 drivers in the country. Nearly half of the driver population, over 73 000 people, are licenced in Windhoek.