THE Transport ministry is home to some of government’s potential money-spinning parastatals. Unfortunately, the majority of them are either rocked by scandals, internal power struggles and basically in a comatose state. The Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara), Central Vehicle Registry (CVR), and Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) could all be national cash-cows if properly administered.
NewsDay Senior Reporter Richard Chidza (ND) trekked down Dexter Nduna (DXN) – chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport to understand what the legislature is doing to resolve problems within that sector. Below are excerpts of the interview:
ND: The Transport ministry is said to have some of the most corrupt departments in government such as VID and CVR, what has your committee done to try and correct this situation?
DXN: The Transport ministry through its chief VID officer during the pre-budget meeting on October 31, 2017, conceded that there was a mismatch on the people tested and passed for driver’s licences annually and the number of vehicles registered each year, thereby increasing the temptation on the part of VID officials to be corrupted. At the annual rate of 100 000 licences being produced at VID, it’s public knowledge that for anyone to get a licence they have to fork out between $150 and $250 to the examining officers. This money gets there through a web that includes, but not limited to driving schools. So ironically, the minimum amount of money going into the pockets of VID officers annually from licences tops $15 million. This is enough to have anyone involved in this to keep the system in its present manual disintegrated state so that there’s continued fleecing of the masses who seek to get licences without paying huge amounts in bribes. The ideal scenario would be to integrate the VID systems with all the other transport systems ie Zinara, Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), RMT and CVR.
This will see the system self-policing and not depending on fragmentation for its subsistence. The human-to-human interface at VID increases corruption and this can only be eliminated by computerisation and integration of the transport systems. A successful example has been the computerisation of the third party insurance. This has resulted in the realisation of over $110 million being accounted for in exactly one year and of this Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) got $8 million, Zinara $2 million, Zimra $6 million for stamp duty and the insurance industry got $94 million. This is money that was going into private pockets through corrupt deals.
ND: You have talked about collapsing some of the parastatals in the ministry in order to reduce expenditure, what has been the response from government?
DXN: The Transport ministry has said it has made recommendations to Cabinet on this issue because we believe President Robert Mugabe is right when he says parastatals should shape up or ship out. Zinara and VID currently have similar roles and should just be collapsed into each other, Road Motor Transport should not be allowed to operate outside NRZ, National Handling Services (NHS) was always an arm of Air Zimbabwe doing the airlines’ baggage handling, hence should revert to its former mandate, among other departments. The amalgamation of parastatals is what we have recommended in order to plug loopholes and reduce the burden on the fiscus.
ND: The issue of the Zimbabwe Integrated Transport Information Systems (Zimitis) remains hanging despite the President’s Office having ordered it to be implemented. As Parliament, what do you think is the problem?
DXN: Ultimately the OPC (Office of the President and Cabinet) is mandated to whip ministries into line with policy.
There are various speculative answers we got from (Transport ministry’s principal director) engineer (Eric) Gumbi on October 30, 2017 regarding non-implementation of some of these projects. The committee is studying the information given by the principal director to see if it borders on prevarication under oath. If it is found that the advice that he has been giving his principals is based on false information presented to the committee regarding integration of transport management systems during cross examination under oath, action will be take.
ND: Why do you think the Transport ministry has sought to run a parallel informal tender procedure after the tender award?
DXN: The committee is in possession of evidence of what computerisation and integration of insurance and transport systems can do in terms of revenue generation for government from existing revenue streams and plugging revenue leakages. It is now a fact that this is a multi-million dollar industry and this notion of running a parallel system can only be informed by greed and malice, nothing else.
ND: Has Parliament engaged the Transport minister over this issue and what has been his response?
DXN: The permanent secretary (Machivenyika) Mapuranga came to Parliament on October 30, 2017 and again to an all-transport and infrastructure stakeholders’ meeting hosted by our committee the following day where he attested that the ministry wanted to adhere to the guidance given by the Attorney-General as well as respect the decision of the OPC, State Procurement Board. He also indicated the ministry’s willingness to respect the Joint Venture Act. So we as the committee are watching closely, but we don’t have much time. Something must happen before the end of the Fifth Session of the Eighth Parliament.
ND: To what extent do you think the computerisation of the transport sector and integration of government departments would help revenues?
DXN: (a) Third party insurance has produced $110m for insurance funds including for Zimra. (b) VID produces 100 000 licences annually and government loses more than $15m due to corruption. (c) CVR is printing about 1 000 “genuine fake” licences each month, that is not benefiting the country. A cartel of officials is pocketing no less than $250 000 monthly all this because of a disintegrated and antiquated system. (d) 1 000 vehicles are registered each month after being fraudulently imported from neighbouring countries as brand new, and no value-added tax (VAT) and duty is paid to Zimra, all this thanks to a non-computerised system. (e) There are five deaths per day due to road carnage nationally and this undermines economic development.
A lot of these accidents are due to unrecognisable fraudulently acquired passenger service vehicle licences due to a disintegrated RMT and police traffic offences system. This all will be history and just imagine the downstream benefit to the country and our people.
ND: There are people who have been suspended and re-instated over criminal charges in different parastatals under Transport’s purview for example at Zinara, CAAZ and CMED. What is going on?
DXN: As related to CMED, we have produced a report which does not include retaining (Davison) Mhaka at CMED after the $3 million fuel scandal. The minister is still to respond to the incriminating committee report. We have asked to have the audit report from Zinara and suffice to say that’s the only way we can play oversight on the ministry.
ND: What has happened to road rehabilitation, there seems to be a start-stop approach to the issue?
DXN: Zinara is doing a magnificent job with very limited resources. However, there’s room for improvement given the fact that a paltry $200 million is raised by Zinara annually against a requirement of no less than $20 billion needed to rehabilitate our road network. So there’s a gap between needs and available resources. Let’s give credit where it’s due, in this case the Transport ministry has done well in the face of resource constraints.
ND: NRZ remains in the doldrums, what has Parliament done to help the Executive find solutions and will there be any in the near future?
DXN: The committee has asked NRZ to give its strategic plan for this year and a report is being presented in Parliament as I speak.
ND: It has been reported that you are conflicted because you have been granted tenders by Zinara and then turn around to provide oversight over their operations, what is your response? The Attorney-General has offered his legal position regarding Zimitis, what happens now?
DXN: Dexter Nduna and my companies are different people, but I can’t leave my business operations because I’m now a parliamentarian. There are ways of dealing with conflict of interest as enshrined in the Standing Rules and Orders of Parliament which is our guiding book. I have been in the road construction business for the past 18 years, long before I became a Member of Parliament. I am trying to imagine you saying Hon (Deputy) minister Fred Moyo should cede his mining interests at Inezdale Mine and at Midwinter Mines because he is now a deputy minister. Food for thought.