The Ministry of Finance has intervened in the issue of proposed tollgate fees, ordering Road Fund Administration (RFA) officials to engage stakeholders before the implementation date, The Daily Times has learnt.
A source at the Ministry of Finance confided in The Daily Times that Finance Minister Felix Mlusu met with RFA representatives in Lilongwe Monday, when he asked them to shift the date of fees’ collection commencement from September 1 to October 1 this year.
The commencement date listed in the gazette is September 1 2021, after Mlusu signed, on August 6 this year.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Williams Banda confirmed the development.
“I can confirm that the Ministry of Finance has shifted the dates for implementation of tollgate fees to October 1  and [I can also confirm] that we have recommended that they engage stakeholders and publicise this initiative more for people to understand,” Banda said.
On August 6 2021, RFA gazetted the tollgate fees, further indicating that Chingeni Toll Plaza in Balaka District would start fees’ collection on September 1, followed by Kalinyeke Toll Gate in Dedza District once construction works are over.
Both toll gates are on the Blantyre-Lilongwe M1 Road stretch.
The list of the tollgate fees shows that light vehicles will be paying K1,700 while minibuses will be parting with K3,400, with trucks that carry abnormal loads paying K20,000 for a one-way trip.
That is not all as 17 to 31-seater buses and 2 to 5-tonne trucks would be paying K5,100 while drivers of vehicles weighing between 5 to 10 tonnes would be coughing K7,000, with K8,000 being applicable to trucks weighing more than 10 tonnes.
The source said, during the meeting, RFA officials were also advised to engage stakeholders to discuss the issue of fees to be collected from the gates.
“The implementation date has been moved to October 1 2021 to allow them to publicise further the toll operations and other conditions attached. Further to that, they have been advised to engage stakeholders such as parliamentarians and motorists. Review of the fees may be determined once they engage the stakeholders,” the source said.
In an interview, RFA spokesperson Masauko Ngwaluko said he was yet to be furnished with such details and that, as such, developments remain as stipulated in the gazette.
“Of course, we might delay starting collecting the fees because some of the processes and operations have to be automated. It is ICT in nature but implementation remains September 1 2021,” Ngwaluko said.
He added that money collected from the two toll gates would be for the maintenance of the specific tolled road, namely the Blantyre-Lilongwe stretch of the M1 Road.
“Priority of road maintenance will be on the tolled road using the toll. The fuel levy and transit fees have not been adequate to meet even 50 percent of the required National Road Maintenance Needs of the country.
“Tolling is our key reform area to broaden the revenue base. In view of the above, the Fuel Levy will not be removed at all. We need more resources to maintain our roads,” he said.
Earlier, RFA officials indicated that they expected to be collecting K4.5 billion a year through the toll-gates, translating into K375 million forgone every month fees collection is delayed.
During a ‘Sunday Times Talk’ programme on Times Radio, Minibus Owners Association of Malawi General Secretary Coaxley Kamange reiterated that the fee should be K500 for minibus operators.
His sentiments were echoed by 90 percent of Malawians who participated in the programme.