… With festive season approaching errant drivers urged to forsake bad habits
The Roads Authority (RA) board of directors in September announced the confirmation of the appointment of Conrad Mutonga Lutombi as the RA CEO for the next five years after Lutombi served as the acting RA CEO since 2010. The appointment was effective from October 01, 2013. A media statement issued by the RA said Lutombi’s confirmation followed an extensive recruitment process after which a recommendation was made to the Minister of Works and Transport, followed by Cabinet approval. Senior business journalist, Edgar Brandt, sat down with Lutombi to discuss the state of Namibia’s roads network and the RA’s future.
NE: What is the state of Namibia’s road network?
CL: “Overall our road network is in an above average condition. However some of our gravel roads are in an unacceptable condition due to the 2010/2011flood damage and heavy rain wash-aways. Furthermore, most of our old sealed roads have reached the end of their design lives therefore require urgent rehabilitation.
“It is important to mention here that we have commenced with re-seal and re-graveling projects this year, which are simultaneously being executed countrywide over a period of three years. The main aim of this initiative is to extend the life of our aged road network, improve safety for motorists and improve the condition of our bitumen and gravel roads until such a time that adequate funds are obtained to rehabilitate them.”
NE: What strategy has RA employed to ensure the maximum amount of Namibian labour is used in the construction and maintenance of Namibia’s roads?
CL: “The RA is guided by the set requirements of the Procurement Policy and SME Development Policy to ensure that suitable Namibian contractors are appointed and preferential treatment for local companies is applied during the adjudication process as per the mentioned policies.”
NE: How much does it cost to construct one kilometre of a bitumen standard road and one kilometre of a gravel road and how does it compare per region?
CL: “One kilometre of surfaced road costs approximately N$3.8 million to N$4 million per kilometre on average. However this is dependent on the availability of materials and the terrain of the road and the road alignment. For areas where there are no materials and heavy drainage structures are required, the cost per kilometre is between N$4 million to N$6.6 million. One kilometre of gravel road costs approximately between N$900 000 and NS1.2 million.”
NE: What is the procedure to award tenders to companies used by the RA?
CL: “The Roads Authority’s tenders are adjudicated in line with the Procurement Policy and tender rules by an independent Management Tender Committee and Board Tender Committee, which make final decisions on tenders.”
NE: As the CEO of the RA, are you satisfied with the transparency of the tender process?
CL: “Yes, the Roads Authority places a high premium on sound and transparent corporate governance, hence our tender process is fair and transparent.”
NE: What are some of the most pressing external issues that need to be dealt with at the RA?
CL: “The main challenge facing the Roads Authority continues to be the inadequate financial resources for the maintenance of our road infrastructure, as the road user charge continues to be below the inflation rate and is not sufficient to cover optimum preservation of our road network. This is indeed a major cause of concern as much of the road network is way beyond its design life and in need of rehabilitation in order for it to continue to play its pivotal role in the socio-economic development of our country. Another challenge we are faced with is a skills shortage of professional engineers in Namibia. This is due to the scarcity and the high demand for this skill, exacerbated by the limited number of Namibian and other professional engineers in the local labour market.
“To remedy this situation, the Roads Authority has made considerable investment in the education of young Namibian engineering students, as part of our corporate social responsibility. The Roads Authority has to date awarded 64 bursaries to the tune of N$1.8 million to young deserving Namibians, from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, to pursue various qualifications in the engineering field. As we continue to avail more funds for this purpose, we are hopeful that it will aid us in addressing the skills shortage of engineers in the near future.”
NE: Does the RA use foreign companies for construction or maintenance on Namibia’s roads and how does this compare to the number of Namibian companies in the sector?
CL: “Yes, we have some foreign companies that are involved in a few of our capital roads projects. However, Namibian companies are the recipients of the majority of our contracts. All our maintenance projects are contracted out to Namibian companies. The Roads Authority endeavours to minimise the use of foreign companies at all times as we believe in building and depending on our local expertise.”
NE: What do you foresee for the future of the RA?
CL: “In the future, I see the Roads Authority moving closer to meeting our aspirations, which is to have a sustainable road sector that is ahead of national and regional socio-economic needs in pursuit of Namibia’s Vision 2030. I see roads which will be safe, roads which will be contributing to the socio-economic well-being of our country.”
NE: What is the main priority of the RA?
CL: “Our main priority is to keep the state of the road network in good condition as we continue to build new ones. Our Corporate Strategy focuses on key objectives such as the effective management of the road network as a core responsibility, stakeholder relations and effective service delivery, financial sustainability, governance and strong leadership as well as strategic human capital enablers.
“The Roads Authority has made great strides in the past years with regard to developing Namibia’s road infrastructure. We are continuously expanding our road network to many areas, especially the rural areas, as indicated in our medium to long-term road master plan.”
NE: There is quite an alarming number of accidents on Namibia’s roads. What is the RA doing to address this?
CL: “We are very concerned about the increase of fatal accidents on our national roads. Apart from other efforts of reducing road crashes on public roads, we are currently investigating how to address the safety problems encountered on major trunk roads especially on how to prohibit crossing of the middle line, thus creating the risk of head-on collisions. Our focus is to look at possible improvements to the existing major trunk roads where fatal road accidents are mostly taking place, by upgrading these sections of the roads network to dual carriage or 2+1 passing lanes.
“These improvements will be included in the Windhoek- Okahandja road rehabilitation project, which will commence this year and extended to Walvis Bay-Swakopmund road, Windhoek-Rehoboth road, Omuthiya-Ondangwa-Ongwediva road and Windhoek-Hosea Kutako International Airport road.
“Apart from a number of gravel roads to be constructed, we also have a number of other major projects for upgrading to bitumen standards, which are planned to soon commence, namely:
• Phase 2 Otjinene-Grootfontein road. This road connects the northern regions to the Trans-Kalahari Corridor via Gobabis.
• Oranjemund-Rosh-Pinah – to integrate Oranjemund economically and socially into Namibia.
• Gobabis-Aminus-Aranos: Omaheke being known as “the cattle country”, this road will serve a large commercial and communal farming area.
• The upgrading to bitumen standard of the Oshigambo-Eenhana Road.”
NE: What are some of the improvements that the RA has implemented at the Namibia Traffic Information System (NaTIS)?
CL: “I am happy to share with you that we have done the following improvements at the Windhoek registering authority:
• Installed CCTV and access control systems;
• Upgraded the existing inspection pits;
• Installed modern vehicle testing equipment;
• Constructed a new heavy vehicle driver testing area; and
• Constructed a Learners Testing Centre.
The above-mentioned initiatives were taken to improve customer service delivery at the Windhoek registering authority. We are also currently busy finalising the implementation of phase 2 of eNaTIS. Once completed, we will offer the following services:
• Computerised learners licence testing;
• Electronic booking system for learner and driver testing;
• Electronic booking system for vehicle roadworthy testing;
• Online web services for vehicle and driver related enquiries and licence renewals.
Furthermore, the construction of the NaTIS one stop centre at Outapi is near completion and it will be officially opened by Honourable Erkki Nghimtina, the Minister of Works and Transport next month. We will commence with the construction of Opuwo NaTIS one stop centre and the Otjomuise one stop centre in Windhoek during the next financial year. Furthermore we completed the construction of the Gobabis weighbridge and will commence with the planning for the construction of Keetmanshop weighbridge during the next financial year.”
NE: With the festive season fast approaching, what is your message to Namibian drivers?
CL: “As we all know, the biggest contributing factor to road accident fatalities is driver attitude. The habit of not obeying road traffic rules and use of the road in an inconsiderate manner should be stopped with immediate effect. As we enter the festive season the Roads Authority would like to appeal to all road users to take a conscious decision and be responsible when travelling on our road network especially long distances and in the evenings. Please stop speeding, overloading, and driving under the influence of alcohol.”