RA’s Worry over Shrinking Budget

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Chief Executive Officer of the Roads Authority (RA) Erastus Ikela is concerned about the chronic shortage of maintenance and construction funds and feels this can reduce the company’s plans and operations to zero. Ikela, who spoke during a roundtable breakfast meeting hosted by RA revealed that the past few years have witnessed an annual decline in the funds that are allocated towards the maintenance of the roads network. Last year, N$420 million was budgeted for the roads and this year only N$398 million was allocated. “The figures are declining each year while maintenance needs for our roads continue to spiral each and every year.” Ideally, Roads Authority wants a budget of N$500 million, as the cost of building and maintaining roads is high. Namibia’s roads network stretches for more than 42 000 km. Considering the heavy rains that the country received last season, more work needs to be done to return the roads to their original good condition. While the Roads Authority strives to make use of the available financial resources, they appealed to road users to adhere to safety road regulations. “While we recognise to inject more money into road infrastructure, we think the public should do their bit as well,” stated the CEO of the RA. He added that it was not too much to ask the Namibian people to pay for the maintenance of the roads to avoid future generations from paying what the current masses are consuming. Campaigns aimed at discouraging overloading as well as encouraging the public not to use unroadworthy vehicles should be looked at. “Speeding kills. Overloading of vehicles damages our roads and both lead to added road user charges,” he explained. Meanwhile, Ikela indicated that the company has prepared a Cabinet memo, which will be presented to the line Minister of Works, Transport and Communication Joel Kaapanda to convince the Ministry of Mines and Energy to increase the fuel levies. The other option, he added, would be the increase of driving license fees. Currently, the fuel levy stands at N$0.77 per litre. Yesterday, the Mass Distance Charges (MDC) came into effect. According to the Road Fund Administration Project Manager of MDCs Arthur Loftie-Eaton, these charges are an additional road user charge to vehicle registration fees, annual licence fees and fuel levies, payable by all owners of locally-registered self propelled vehicles with a tare above 3 000 kg and trailers or semi-trailers heavier than 2 000 kg. In the past few years, the Roads Authority has invested handsomely in the construction of weighbridges as a way to tackle overloading. Since the infrastructure was put in place there has been a reported decrease in the number of over-loaded vehicles. He says weighbridges are not just there to augment the much-needed revenue but from the transportation point of view, the company is also trying to level the ground. This means those who overload are likely to get more profit from what they are transporting than those operating within the confines of the law. The company assured its continued engagements with stakeholders in mobilising sufficient resources to maintain roads and construct new ones where necessary. Meanwhile, Roads Authority Divisional Manager Wilfried Brock appealed to those who applied for licenses to collect the documents. According to Brock, more than 10 000 licenses remain uncollected.