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Manual tollgate tickets raise eyebrows

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By Mandy Pondani

There are growing concerns from various quarters that money realised from the newly launched Chingeni Toll Plaza in Balaka could be prone to abuse owing to a seemingly weak ticketing system.

The concerns come after various tickets bearing the Roads Fund Administration’s (RFA) logo, from the plaza, went viral on social media, raising questions about their authenticity.

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But RFA spokesperson Masauko Ngwaluko said in an interview that the toll fees are safe and that there is a vibrant monitoring mechanism.

According to Ngwaluko, the plaza will be raking in money within the ranges of K5.4 billion to K10.8 billion annually, increasing the parastatal’s revenue by 15 percent.

In circulation is what appear to be an electronic receipt issued on November 8 for K3,400; another one written manually on the same day for K1,700; while another which looks photocopied was issued on November 9 for K8,000.

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A concerned motorist Richard Mkandawire in an interview said developments at the Chingeni Toll Plaza since its inception are not giving confidence, raising suspicion that the revenue collected could be abused.

“The ticketing system ought to be strengthened. From the receipts flying around, you may not know which one is fake or genuine. We are already suspicious as citizens. It is sad that we easily talk of reforms but never ready to embrace the innovations we bring,” Mkandawire said.

Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Executive Director Willy Kambwandira also urged caution in how resources at the tollgate are being collected.

Kambwandira warned that manual issuance of receipts may result in abuse as has been the case with other receipts issued in that fashion.

“We have cases of government general receipts being forged and money ending up in some individual’s pockets. In this day and age, it is important that electronic transactions be the best way. In such cases, it becomes easy to track the funds,” Kambwandira said.

Asked why there is lack of uniformity among the tickets at the plaza, Ngwaluko attributed the differences to the technical hitches experienced on some days, which he said have since been rectified.

“The very first ticket which was in circulation is indeed ours and was issued when the minister went to visit the plaza; the second K8,000 ticket in the media is manual and it is also ours and was issued for lane five [serves big trucks].

“We had a challenge with the system and we could not produce a ticket from the smaller ones. We had no choice but to issue a manual receipt,” he said.

According to Ngwaluko, all activities at the plaza are recorded in real time and that government has invested in secure information, communications and technology services.

He then reiterated that Malawians should trust RFA, saying no money from the Chingeni Plaza or the soon-to-be-launched Kalinyeke in Dedza will be misappropriated.

“The law empowers the RFA to operate that account; this money does not even go to Account Number One. The law prescribes the use of these resources, which is purely for road maintenance. So, trust us, the money is safe,” Ngwaluko added.

The fees, which received backlash form stakeholders such as Minibus Owners Association of Malawi, are pegged at K1,700 for light vehicles, K3,400 for minibuses with trucks carrying abnormal loads paying K20,000.

For 17 to 31-seat buses and two to five-tonne trucks, the fees are at K5,100. Those between five and 10 tonnes are paying K7,000 while K8,000 is applicable for trucks weighing more than 10 tonnes.

Meanwhile, Dedza and Ntcheu district councils are pushing for a five per cent share from tollgate collections, saying it is one way of promoting fiscal decentralisation.

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