Transport Sector Soon to Cough Up

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Emotions ran high on Friday during a meeting between the Road Fund Administration (RFA) and disgruntled heavy vehicle owners, operators and road stakeholders who objected to the pending introduction of new road user charges. The Road Fund Admini-stration’s Chief Executive Officer, Penda Kiiyala, called the information meeting with the transport sector, which is predominantly white. In response to demands from those who attended the meeting, the RFA’s Manager: Corporate Services, Mary Hansen, described the general feeling as displeasing. She was referring to the mass distance charges (MDCs) aimed at securing N$100 million per year to main the country’s road network. “They (the heavy vehicle road users) demanded that instead of implementing the MDC, the company pursues other avenues such as fuel levies. Unfortunately this was an information sharing and not a consultative meeting. The decision to implement the MDCs was already taken last year by the Namibian Government,” said Hansen after being contacted for comment about the outcome of the meeting. The Road Fund Administration Act, No. 18 of 1999, mandates the company to operate the road user charging system, a system in accordance with the economic efficiency criteria and full cost recovery from road users. “The Road Fund Administration is mandated by the Government of the Republic of Namibia to determine the amount of funding for road projects and programmes, to determine the manner in which such amount of funding shall be allocated in terms of the budget, and to determine and impose the types and rates of road user charges,” Kiiyala told the meeting. The Act requires that the Road Fund Administration collects fuel levies through the oil industry network and that the RFA collects cross-border charges through an appointed agent and that license fees be collected by NaTIS. “The only missing link in this chain has been the collection of MDCs that are meant to equalize the payment for the usage of our national road network. The MDCs were supposed to have been implemented about four years ago but due to a protracted consultation process with the stakeholders and role-players, the implementation was delayed. The delay has put us in a serious predicament where some road users have been using the roads, but not paying their fair share for this usage,” said Kiiyala. The RFA has been facing a damning shortage of funds for the maintenance of our national road network. “We have decided not to construct new roads, to rehabilitate only the roads that have reached their life span, and only to fund the maintenance of most of our roads until such a time when we get adequate funding. We must earn our keep, but the only option is to rely on our own resources and this is why we are introducing the MDCs to ensure that we collect enough funds to sustain our road network in an impeccable condition,” he asserted. If the road between Okahandja and Karibib is not rehabilitated in the next 12 months, it will cause so much inconvenience to motorists and investors alike that lives might be lost. “To those who oppose the introduction of the MDCs, maybe they would like to suggest that we all use the detour to Swakopmund via Otjiw-arongo if we want to arrive on the coast safely, thereby extending our trip by about 250 kilometres. In a country that prides itself for its impeccable road network, and would like to be considered as the hub of the transport sector in the SADC region, we cannot afford to stand idly by while our road network is going to the dogs. Government has given us the mandate to be the custodians of this road network and we are not going to shirk from this responsibility,” he assured those present at the meeting.