DESPITE a huge national road sector development budget of K5.4 billion planned for 2015, road crashes have continued to be a menace by striking the young, healthy and productive due to drunken driving and carelessness, says chairman of the Zambian Road Safety Trust Daniel Mwamba.
Mr Mwamba said while roads were vital for the daily lives, sadly every single day in Zambia there were serious road accidents, with thousands of people being killed or severely injured each year. He said according to the United Nations, road crashes cost low and middle income economies between 2-7per cent of the GDP yearly, adding that these crashes have a major human and financial cost to the country. He said costs fell on families, businesses, emergency services, hospitals, long-term disability and insurance payouts.
Mr Mwamba said Government through the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) has announced a road sector development budget of K5.4 billion for this year which is about 11per cent of the national budget (K46.7 billion),.
Gving a breakdown, Mr Mwamba said the Road Development Agency (RDA ) received the lion’s share of about K4.9 billion, the Ministry of Local government K259 million, Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) K205 million, and the National Council for Construction (NCC) received K8 million.
Mr Mwamba explained that the huge allocation to the rioad sector was in accordance with the World Bank recommended expenditure of between 10-20 per cent for developing countries’ budgets on transport sectors.
He said that was so because an extensive and well-maintained network of primary, secondary, and feeder roads has been recognised as critical for economic growth and poverty alleviation. Road investment can boost agricultural productivity and growth in Zambia. He said increases in investment in roads lead to a strong and positive rise in labour productivity, adding that well planned, properly maintained and safe roads were critical for economic growth and overcoming poverty. The other concern beside road crashes costing our economy was road construction corruption. The World Bank estimates that corruption in transport projects can account for as much as 5per cent to 20 per cent of transaction costs.
Road construction projects provide the most opportunities for public servants to enrich themselves. Transparency International’s 2011 Bribe Payers Index reported that construction and public works are perceived to have the highest level of bribery of any sector, higher than both the arms industry and the oil and gas sector.
Transport projects are susceptible to corruption due to the high value of many contracts, imagine Road Development Agency’s K4.9 Billion allocation, a good 5 per cent of the national cake.
He said corruption and road crashes consume the entire road sector budget.
To overcome this, I urge our government to develop a road strategy that can be overseen and monitored by a multi-disciplinary taskforce comprised of stakeholders across the road system including charities and education institutions,” he said
He said road travel should not be riskier than any other daily activity undertaken, adding that. tackling corruption in the road sector will require a comprehensive response of integrated measures.
“Stakeholder participation is a prerequisite to effectively identifying and addressing our road problems. We should not be wasting an estimated K4 Billion on road crashes and 20 per cent of construction costs as a result of corruption,” said Mr Mwamba.