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A highly placed source at the Road Fund Secretariat has denied that GH˘ 9 million cannot be accounted for from toll booth collection as contained in the Auditor-General’s report for 2011.

According to the source if further checks had been made such as checking the bank books and reconciling same, the queries in the Auditor-General’s report could have been avoided.

The source said the belief that the Road Fund was overflowing with money was wrong and that the secretariat was at the moment finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, in a measure to eliminate underpayment, fraud and evasion at toll stations across the country, the Road Fund Secretariat has initiated moves to make all toll booths in the country automatic. When the project takes effect, motorists will be expected to pay road tolls by swiping electronic cards.

Mr Franklin Agbanator, Director of the Road Fund Secretariat, made the disclosure in an interview in with The Mirror in Accra.

He said a programme would soon be embarked on to educate motorists on the usage of electronic toll cards.

“The cards will be sold in advance and affixed to windscreens of vehicles such that once they approach the booth the stop-bar will lift by itself to allow motorists passage,” he said.

According to Mr Agbanator, in the year 2012, the Road Fund Secretariat raked in GH˘45m from road, bridge and ferry tolls in the country. For the year under review, he said the secretariat was expecting to earn about GH˘46m.

He said there were three road agencies that relied on funds from the Road Fund to finance their activities. The agencies included the Ghana Highways Authority (GHA), the Department of Feeder Roads and the Department of Urban Roads.

However, he observed that considering the volume of roadworks to be undertaken throughout the country, the money collected was woefully inadequate to meet the challenges that faced the road sector.

Sources of funds to the Road Fund Secretariat include fuel levy, road user fees, road and bridge tolls, vehicle registration fees and international transit fees.

He said at present, the Road Fund Secretariat only funded routine and periodic maintenance works.

He said the secretariat’s first priority was to finance routine maintenance works which included pothole patching, cleaning and fixing drains, green area maintenance, mending and fixing metal grating at selected road sections and de-silting of underground drains.

“But even with these the fund was not enough to go round,” he said.

The Road Fund Director said at the beginning of each year the agencies came up with their budgets on road projects that needed to be funded and monies were allocated based on needs assessment.

“Normally we look at roads with high traffic volumes and infrastructure and consider cost benefit analysis and viability of the projects to be undertaken,” he said.

Unfortunately, he admitted that it was not all vehicles that paid tolls. He said while some motorists used side roads, lanes and unapproved routes close to the toll stations in their attempts to evade paying tolls, others formed clique of friends with the toll collectors and were made to pass freely through the tollgates.

That notwithstanding, he maintained that the secretariat had not decided on any increase in the amount of road tolls being charged at present.

“Toll charges will have to be done in concert and support of the travelling public and in relation to the necessity to maintain road infrastructure. In view of this the Road Fund Secretariat goes round the country every quarter to interact with the public and give account of how much the Fund has accrued from road and bridge tolls,” he said.

He said the Road Fund Secretariat was in the process of privatising some toll booths in the country in the effort to improve collection, and added that a few toll stations had been selected for the purpose but were being tried out on a pilot basis.

He said because of the economic drain that damaged roads had on the economy, Parliament had given further approval for every 50 kilometres of first-class roads in the country to be tolled to raise money for maintenance.

Mr Agbenator said roads formed an integral part of the nation’s socio-economic life as it provided about 95 per cent of transportation needs in the country, and that if they were not given the necessary attention there would be delays in activities and the cost of doing business would increase because vehicle parts would be expensive to buy.

He has, therefore, appealed to the public to support in any way that they could towards efforts to maintain the country’s roads.
Source: Graphic.com.gh

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