HomeLocal NewsInterview: Zinara moves to weed out corruption

Interview: Zinara moves to weed out corruption

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By Taurai Mangudhla
A LEGACY of corruption and operational challenges at tollgates has tainted the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara)’s corporate image.

NewsDay (ND) chief reporter Taurai Mangudhla interviewed Zinara chief executive Nkosinathi Ncube (NN) about these challenges.

Below are excerpts of the interview:

ND: You are a finance person, how do you intend to use your skills and background to improve Zinara?
NN: Zinara has been tainted by legacy issues emanating from the Grant Thornton audit report of 2018.

We have made great strides in addressing the issues highlighted in the report.

Our parent ministry (Transport and Infrastructural Development) through the minister will be announcing the progress made.

Henceforth, we are now building a new Zinara in which we are reconfiguring our ICT department to minimise human interface in all our operations.

We are promoting various products of a digital nature for a seamless service offering to our valued customers.

One of the key areas is the introduction of e-tolling, where 27 companies, both local and international, submitted their tenders and we are in the process of finalising this process.

To improve efficiency, we are also upgrading our vehicle licensing system to plug off all the suspected leakages that were reported in the past.

Furthermore, we have created a risk and loss control department which, apart from normal risk profiling, will also be using data analytics techniques in mitigating fraud in our operations.

ND: You recently launched the prepaid card, how is it performing, and are there other new products on cards?
NN: The prepaid card is a prepayment facility that both corporate and individual motoring clients can use to pre-fund their toll fees. We currently have over 70 000 cards registered.

The card is funded in local currency at any Zinara office and across all tollgates and we recently launched it onto the ZimSwitch platform for clients to fund their accounts at their convenience from their bank mobile applications.

The card transacts in under five seconds from the point of producing the card to issuing the toll receipt, whereby the card is scanned by the revenue clerk and funds are automatically deducted from the client’s account, making it a contactless transaction.

This makes the prepaid card the fastest payment method at present, assisting with reducing congestion due to increased turnaround times.

ND: How about new initiatives?
NN: We have the frequent traveller express pass (FTEP), which was introduced in November 2021. It is another prepayment facility that complements payment methods already available to the motoring public.

The FTEP has a number of passes that clients can prepay and are issued with a disc similar to a licensing disc on the condition they have a valid vehicle license.

The minimum number of passes currently is 15 and the maximum being 35 passes per month. All remaining passes that are unused within the month roll over to the following month until the passes are exhausted.

This method of payment is also fast as it takes less than five seconds to process and print the receipt at the tollgate. The FTEP has offline functionality, therefore, does not depend on financial institution network connectivity to process.

The client has the benefit of prefunding for passes that are unaffected by a potential change in toll fees, locking the value of money for the client.

ND: What is the breakdown of the modes of payment for tollgates?
NN: Swipe or POS [point-of-sale] is 48%, Zinara prepaid card (20%), cash (17%), mobile money (13%) and FTEP (2%).

ND: Based on your assessment, what is causing congestion at tollgates and what can be done to deal with this problem?
NN: There are a number of causes, but two key causes are: small tollgate infrastructure which we are addressing through the development of tollgates, and the slow payment method in swiping cards.

Swiped cards are sometimes 20 seconds or more and this naturally leads to a build-up of traffic during peak hours or weekends.

The location of tollgates reduces reliable mobile network connectivity, with the average distance of tollgates from the nearest town being 25km.

Poor connectivity causes longer processing time for clients that pay via swipe and mobile money.

The introduction of prepayment facilities has assisted with reducing transacting time at payment points.

We are working very well with all the network providers to boost the network.

For clients who pay using US dollars, at times we encounter issues of change.

A vast number of clients bring higher denominated United States dollar (US$) notes and often have to wait for long periods until change is found for them to proceed.

We continually encourage the motoring public to use small denominations for ease of transaction. When the tollgates were constructed around 2010, the number of lanes were adequate for the vehicle population nationwide.

Presently, the infrastructure cannot adequately cater for the vehicle population which has increased substantially. Inadequate lanes create congestion at the tollgates.

Tollgate expansion has begun, notably at Norton tollgate. Other tolling sites pegged for expansion are Shamva, Esigodini, Dema and Skyline.

The issue of vehicles breaking down within the tollgate area and at times blocking lanes, hence disallowing free movement of traffic has been addressed by Statutory Instrument 250 of 2021 to minimise the lack of urgency sometimes shown by some motorists when a vehicle breaks down at the tollgate.

ND: At the annual general meeting (AGM), you said you are moving to comply with corporate governance statutes and working on the 2021 annual report. When is it expected to be published?
NN: With the 2019 and 2020 AGMs now out of the way, the focus is now on the financial statements ending December 31, 2021.

The audit process this year will focus on 2021 and we expect to hold the AGM by November 2022.

ND: The Plumtree road loan has given your organisation headaches. Is there room to possibly lobby for US$ toll fees at least on the specific road so that you repay loans?
NN: As an administration, we are also sensitive to what the motorists go through and we have focused on developing solutions on the loan using the available resources and not burdening the motorist.

We have restructured the facility with the Development Bank of Southern Africa and it is good to advise that Zimbabwe is now compliant in this regard.

ND: There have been reports of corruption at Zinara, where millions vanished, what are you doing as an executive to avoid a repeat?
NN: It is a reality that the legacy issues of corruption at Zinara will be with the institution for some time.

However, it is important to note that the restructuring of Zinara, focusing on its core mandate, means that Zinara now only interfaces with the 92 road authorities across the country and does not directly interact with the road contractors.

This ensures that Zinara focuses on collection, management of the fund, and disbursement to road authorities.

This has brought transparency to the operations of Zinara as it is easy to account for the funds received.

The road administration has also established robust processes and procedures across all the functions in the business, including establishing departments that were non-existent, but important like procurement and risk and loss control.

To ensure funds are collected smoothly we have put in place full-fledged ICT and risk and loss control departments to mitigate against any fraudulent activities using the latest technologies including the use of CCTV and data analytics techniques.

Working under the guidance of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, we have set up an integrity committee and this integrity committee is focusing on ensuring that proper processes and procedures are established to eradicate corruption.

ND: To what extent are you involved in quality assurance when you disburse funding for roads and what are you doing to ensure funds are not put to waste?

NN: The road authorities are mandated to acquit funds that they will have received against the intended purposes and only then will they be allocated additional funds.

The actual assessment of the work done on the roads is primarily driven by the road authority.

However, Zinara also follows the funds through its technical department and audit department and shares the reports with the road authorities and the Transport ministry.

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