The recent grim news that 14 lives were lost in a road accident caused by a huge pothole along Bulawayo and Gwanda highway is a stark reminder that tax justice and fiscal justice should be high on the development agenda for all Zimbabweans. Essentially, citizens are paying various charges to finance the rehabilitation and construction of roads. Unfortunately, potholes are a hall mark feature on many Zimbabwean roads, loopholes in the management of public resources are one of the major reason.
Notably, the Zimbabwe National Road Authority (ZINARA)’s 2014 financial statements were condemned by the Auditor General’s 2015 report on parastatals and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). Amongst other litany of irregularities is ZINARA’s failure to furnish expenditure vouchers amounting to $2,419,511 for verification by the Auditor General. A forensic audit on ZINARA has since been ordered by the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development starting from 2011 to 2016 to unravel the extent of mismanagement of public resources.
Whilst it critical for government to curb Illicit Financial Flows to create the much needed fiscal space in line with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, without efficient and transparent accountable management of public expenditure, such efforts can easily go to waste.
ZINARA was created in 2001 by the Roads Act (Chapter 13:18) to administer collection, management and disbursement of road funds. Revenue streams meant for construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of roads administered by ZINARA, a SOE, comprise of toll fees, transient fees, abnormal load and overload fees, fuel levy and vehicle licenses. in turn, ZINARA disburses the road funds to Provincial Department of Roads, District Development Fund and local authorities.
Ideally, these public resources should be well managed to deliver quality and safe road network systems. Citizens, therefore, must actively demand transparency and accountability in the management of public funds by ZINARA. This is necessary to pressure public officials to act responsibly and close the loopholes in the management of public funds to eliminate the potholes that are causing unnecessary loss of lives, injuries and property damages or losses.
The pothole that caused the accident has since been closed. However, it is regrettable that loss of lives is the driving force behind the closure of the pot hole rather than taking a proactive stance to save lives.