RFA to Repay Millions to Truckers

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK After the High Court declared as illegal the mass distance charges levied by the Road Fund Administration (RFA), the administration will have to refund its clients up to N$23,9 million. The mass distance charges implemented by the RFA from June 01 this year caused uproar, resulting in the court case that will prove very costly to the State. The Chief Executive Officer of the RFA, Penda Kiiyala, yesterday said that his institution has resigned itself to the High Court ruling that was announced on Monday this week. He confirmed that Judge Kato van Niekerk declared the imposition of the mass distance charges, promulgated by General Notice No. 126 of 2006 in the Government Gazette of Namibia No. 3640, to be invalid from the implementation date of June 1 2006. In view of the ruling, repayments will be effected as soon as applications have been received by the RFA. Local heavy vehicle operators will be refunded N$20 million while N$3.9 million would have to be repaid to operators of foreign-registered vehicles. “We will contact the foreigners using the addresses they used during the payments,” explained the Fund Manager at RFA, Desmond Basson. Heavy vehicle owners were supposed to pay the charges together with their license fees on an annual basis to NaTIS and its collecting agents. Apart from the N$23.9 million, the RFA will experience a shortfall of nearly N$100 million during the 2006/7 financial year. This consequently affects the proposed maintenance projects, specifically the rehabilitation of the Okahandja and Karibib roads. Even if the RFA is mandated by its Act, No. 18 of 1999 to secure sufficient funds to achieve a safe and economically efficient Namibian road sector, Kiiyala said, the court failed to realise the economic viability of such a project. The Okahandja-Karibib road, he added, is in a bad state and considering that it forms part of the Trans Kalahari Highway, it reflects negatively on the country and the RFA. “The backlog in maintenance work on Namibia’s roads due to a shortage of funds will have to be recovered in future from the heavy vehicle owners at a possible increased cost,” he said. During the information campaign in March 2006 that cost the RFA about N$960 000, the institution informed heavy vehicle owners and stakeholders that it had a budget deficit of N$100 million and wished to raise funds through mass distance charges, in the course of the 2006/7 financial year, to perform the maintenance work. The RFA also elaborated that the collection of charges by means of the fuel levies alone would not promote equity amongst different categories of road users. “The RFA wishes to underline that the fuel levy cannot replace the mass distance charges,” Kiiyala had said. Although the court judgment ruled in favour of the applicants such as F.P. du Toit Transport, Wesbank Transport and Blaauw’s Transport, the RFA will not lodge an appeal, saying it is in the best interests of Namibia’s road sector. The RFA also announced its ultimate objective to implement mass distance charges based on a Global Positioning System (GPS) through which the actual distance travelled by heavy vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers can be measured and recorded. RFA’s contracted experts are in their final stages of the feasibility studies regarding the GPS. A pilot mass distance charge system will be implemented as soon as the appropriate technology has been selected in conjunction the relevant stakeholders.