Roads set for major facelift

zinara-motoristsWalter Nyamukondiwa: Chinhoyi Bureau

The country’s roads are set for a major facelift with feeder and rural roads being progressively tarred following Government’s directive that a large chunk of zinara disbursements be used periodically for maintenance of road infrastructure.This involves regrading and resealing of roads, which have in most cases, lived beyond their designed lifespan of between 10 and 20 years.

Previous disbursements mostly targeted routine maintenance, which involved pothole patching, drain clearing and grading of roads that eventually developed more potholes.

zinara board chairman Mr Albert Mugabe recently confirmed the new arrangement saying it was in its early stages of implementation and needed to be reviewed to gauge its impact.

“It was a recommendation from Central Government, which we are in the process of implementing. We are in the process of reviewing how it impacts on each council to see whether making it a blanket requirement will be achievable and acceptable,” said Mr Mugabe.

Like everything new, he said difficulties arise as some councils argued the template did not dovetail into with their priorities hence the need for individual remedies.

He said the template would be reviewed and fine-tuned to ensure the best possible outcome for the well-being of the country’s roads.

Needing a cash injection of around $20 billion to bring the country’s roads into usable state, the framework which stipulates a 30:70 percent disbursement ratio, has emerged as a better solution in the short to medium term.

Under the programme, work is decentralised giving road authorities who are mostly councils, the autonomy to identify roads that need to be worked on, conduct adjudication of contractors and monitor the projects.

zinara will source materials, pay for labour and equipment hire after councils raise certificates of completion at stipulated stages.

This is done after councils enter into a contract with zinara and a contractor who will undertake the programme.

The identified priority roads are submitted for consideration in a calendar year and should fit within disbursements budgets for that particular authority.

However, local authorities can also complement the programme through channelling part of their budgets and equipment towards road maintenance.

This will significantly reduce the cost as some of them are absorbed internally. This means that councils will not handle funds directly thereby eliminating the need for acquittals which some councils were struggling with.

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development Cde Dexter Nduna welcomed the development saying it would have a “definitive” impact on the country’s roads.

“Because of its expanded nature and its elongated focus, it means that it will progressively address the shelf life of our roads, which has been neglected for sometime,” said Cde Nduna.

“This means that we will see resealing, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads as prioritised by the councils which know the state of their roads.”

With zinara getting a peak projection of $200 million in revenue annually from toll-gates, vehicle licences and road user fees, it will take at least 10 years to fix the roads.

The target has not been met in recent years.

There have been calls for the active involvement of road users such as mines, farmers and conservancies to maintain roads in the areas they operate.

Said Cde Nduna: “There has been laxity in respect of maintenance and upgrading of roads by mining houses and other community businesses like conservancies to give back by tarring roads. This used to happen before.”

He said the companies should construct their conduits citing construction of the 80km Ngezi-Selous road by Zimplats as a positive example which should be replicated and expanded.

The decentralisation of adjudication process ties in with proposals contained in the Procurement Act Bill whose provisions call for decentralised procurement process to local authorities.

Chinhoyi Municipality, which was allocated around $320 000 for 2016, has already started work on reconstruction and resealing of at least six roads in the CBD which has brought relief to motorists.

About $220 000 of that amount is going towards routine maintenance, while the remainder will go towards resealing of roads such as Midway, Park, North and Zesa Connect streets.

Chinhoyi town clerk Mr Maxwell Kaitano hailed the new disbursement criteria as key in rapid improvement of roads in the town.

“We are happy because we are going to see a lot of impact in the shortest period which is good for motorists and the outlook of our town.

“This means that next year we move to other roads and eventually if its maintained all roads will be tarred,” said Mr Kaitano.

Already part of roads such as Plumtree-Tsholotsho, Bindura-Matepatepa and a road in Binga among others have been tar- red.

Cde Nduna described the programme as a bold move which will bring accountability and progress in road maintenance as some councils do not have qualified technocrats.

“In the long run we will not need to employ a lot of funds in road maintenance. It seems like a drop in the ocean but we will see more of our roads being tarred over time,” he said.

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