SUSTAINABLE ROAD MAINTENANCE IN ZAMBIA
Zambia is a landlocked country in Central Africa surrounded by eight neighboring countries namely Angola, Congo DR, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. It has an area of 753,000 sq. km and a population of about 9.8 million.
Road network plays a critical role in the development of the country and the region as a whole in view of the landlocked nature.
2. ROAD SECTOR
Zambia has a road network of 37,000 km of gazetted roads and about 30,000 km of ungazetted roads. In 1991, when the present Government came into power, 80 percent of the road network had deteriorated. Of the total road asset valued at US$2.3 billion, Zambia had lost US$400 million of road network due to neglected maintenance.
The deterioration of the road network in Zambia and the consequent loss of road asset value was caused by inadequate funding and poor management. Road maintenance was financed from the general tax revenues in competition with several other pressing demands. Due to financial constraints, allocations for maintenance of the road network by the Treasury had declined to only about 15 percent of the requirements. The problem of road maintenance was diagnosed to be not one of engineering but of policies and management.
3. REFORMS UNDERTAKEN
The MMD Government came into power in 1991 with the promise to repair the damaged road infrastructure as a political campaign. In view of the backlog of maintenance and the huge amount of money required, the Government joined the World Bank Road Maintenance Initiative (RMI) in 1991 and launched a road maintenance policy seminar in February 1993. This seminar was a water-shed in road maintenance management in Zambia.
The Government accepted the recommendations of the RMI Seminar and implemented them with the following outcomes:
4.1 Road User Charge
A road user charge tariff was introduced in the form of fuel levy with effect from 1 May 1993 with K10 per litre (about US1 cent of diesel and gasoline). Since 1993, the fuel levy was increased to K30 per litre in 1995, K40 per litre in 1996 and to 15 percent of the wholesale price in 1998 which works out to about K73 per litre (US3 cents) and K85 per litre in 1999 and to K120 in 2001.
As recommended by the seminar, the proceeds from the fuel levy are deposited in an autonomous road fund. The account for the road fund is maintained in commercial banks through a tender, obtaining the best terms and conditions to protect the funds. The fund is audited by the external auditors on a quarterly basis and accounts published and tabled in Parliament.
4.2 New Institutional Structure
As recommended by the seminar, a new institutional structure was established under the name of the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) to manage and administer the road fund.
One of the notable and unique features of the Board is that it is a private sector driven Board as seven board members are from private sector and four from public sector. The private sector members who are in the majority and nominees of non-user government organisations have the right to vote whilst four members of the public sector representing relevant ministries and the government have the right to participate and advise but not vote.
This road user dominated Board represents a major change in policy and is also a deliberate attempt by the Government to hand-over ownership of the roads and the management of the road infrastructure to the private sector as a prerequisite to promote development.
Transport Policy has been approved. Policy, Institutional Financial and Legal reforms are being implemented to complete the Road Sector Reform.
Three Executive Agencies are being established to further commercialise the Road Sector.
Since it came into being in October 1994 the National Road Fund Agency has achieved the following:
5.1 Formulated a policy in the road sector and sought approval of the Government;
5.1 Instituted policy guidelines to manage and administer the road fund with the approval of the Committee of Ministers on Road Maintenance Initiative;
5.2 Established systems and procedures to ensure total transparency and accountability in the management of the road fund dedicated to maintenance of the road network. Accounts are audited by external Auditors and published;
5.3 Launched a national programme of sustainable maintenance to arrest the deterioration of the road network in the country and also prolong the life of the road network in good and fair conditions through continuous and timely maintenance;
5.4 Instituted a maintenance culture in Zambia by involving the 72 councils in the district administration and the provincial administration in formulating and implementing annual national programme of road maintenance funded through the road fund;
5.5 Provided guidelines to Councils and which assisted them in formulating the annual programme on road maintenance. The Councils through the representatives of the people from the grassroot level approve the programme through a resolution at a full Council meeting. District Development Co-ordinating Committee co-ordinates the programme from all the districts. It is thereafter ratified by the Provincial Co-ordinating Committee and submitted to the respective ministries to compile the national programme and submit to the NRFA for funding. The NRFA funds the roads identified and contracted by the district Councils. All payments to contractors for road works completed are certified by Consultants and approved by the Councils before payment is made by NRFA. In this manner, the Councils take ownership for maintenance and quality of road works carried out.
5.6 Collaborated with the Association of Consulting Engineers of Zambia (ACEZ) to appoint consultants at provincial level to assist the district councils, district administration and the provincial administration in drawing up a programme, preparing, evaluating and managing road maintenance contracts and certifying payments for contracted and completed road maintenance work.
5.7 Encouraged the development of contractors and consultants capacity in the country to the extent that unit price of road works came down by 40 percent in some areas whilst the quality of work improved. The private sector now undertakes 90% of road works and the number of contractors has increased from 4 in 1993 to over 200 today.
5.8 Initiated action to strengthen Roads Training School and Copperbelt University to train and develop personnel to improve the performance of road sector.
5.9 Attracted over US$500 million funding to the Road Sector.
5.10 Condition of the paved road network improved from 20% in good condition in 1994 to 60% in good condition in 2002 surpassing the target set.
6 ROADS 2001 AND BEYOND
As 80 percent of the road network was not in a manageable condition, the road fund of about US$8 million was hardly adequate to improve the condition of the road network. The National Road Fund Agency , therefore, with the approval of the Government set up a National Task Force to launch a national programme of road rehabilitation with the private and public sector participation. The objective of the road sector investment programme is to bring about total quality management of the road network through contributions from the road users, government, co-operating partners and developmental agencies. The phase one of the programme has been launched and is in progress. The goals of phase one of the programme are as follows:
6.1 Create a domestic sustainable system for financing and management of the road network which will reduce dependence on external financing for maintenance and rehabilitation;
6.2 Increase the proportion of roads in good condition to no less than 50 percent of the network, thus reducing vehicle operating costs;
6.3 Address poor accessibility in the rural areas with emphasis on feeder roads leading to productive areas;
6.4 Put in place an accelerated programme to address the deterioration of selected main and urban roads; and
6.5 Put in place measures that will mitigate effects that road works might have on the environment.
The NRFA has been given the responsibility to manage and co-ordinate the project. An action plan has been formulated and put in place with deadlines to ensure the project is implemented to achieve the set goals.
The vision of the Government of the Republic of Zambia is to bring about total quality management of the road sector through reforms in Policy, Institutional Framework, Financing Arrangements, Private Sector Involvement and Participation, Training and Development for Sustainability, Road Safety Improvement, Environmental Impact Assessment and above all Sustainable Maintenance Management. The Government has put in place measures and a programme to rehabilitate the road network and maintain it on a continuous and pro-active basis through performance contracts and self-financing arrangement through a dedicated fund contributed by the road users. The road fund has disbursed K185 billion in the past eight years and is being increased gradually to become self-financing in the maintenance of the road network in Zambia.
Sustainable Maintenance is the cornerstone and the driving force of road sector reform. Zambia is committed to inculcate a road maintenance culture to promote and facilitate accelerated development in the country through road sector management.