THE Government is reportedly failing to account for more R21 million that was collected for the rehabilitation of New Limpopo Bridge, a move which the Auditor-General’s office has said to be worrying.
The fund was established to finance the maintenance, rehabilitation of old and new Limpopo bridges, and the roads linking to the bridges on the Zimbabwean side. Toll collection along the bridge is handled by the Zimbabwe National Road Authority (Zinara) under Statutory Instrument 100 of 2014 and the Beitbridge (Tolling) regulations.
However, according to the Auditor-General, Mrs Mildred Chiri, in auditing the fund on behalf of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, the fund’s revenue was understated by 21 577 326 rand, which was collected during the months of November and December 2014.
Zinara had reportedly alleged that the money was left out from the financial statement because the bank had not converted the amount to United States dollars.
“I could not satisfy myself that the figure of R3 241 168 represented all the revenue which was collected by Zinara. The fund relied on bank statements and deposit slips supplied by Zinara to come up with the revenue figure.
There were no copies of receipts and monthly summary of revenue collected, which would have enabled the fund to carry out independent reconciliations against bank statements.
Consequently, the revenue of $3 241 168 collected could not be independently confirmed in the absence of receipts and monthly summary of revenue collected,” reads part of the audit report.
The ministry in its response, however, put the blame on Zinara alleging that while it had requested monthly revenue returns from 17 June to 31 December 2014 they only managed to get deposit slips for October 2014.
“Returns for collections done from when the account was opened to date are still to be availed to the department. The department will continue to engage Zinara in an effort to obtain the returns and also make quarterly visits to examine revenue records at the bridge,” reads the report.
It has further been revealed that while Zinara is the toll fee collecting agent along the bridge, they were, however, doing so without any contract between the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development and the parastatal. Mrs Chiri noted that this could create complications in the future.
“I observed that Zinara was collecting toll fees on behalf of the New Limpopo Bridge Fund, this was evidenced by a letter dated August 16, 2014 directing Zinara to deposit revenue collected into the fund’s bank account. I was not provided with a contract between Zinara and New Limpopo Bridge fund with terms and conditions under which Zinara was appointed a collection agent.
“I had sight of minutes written by the accounting officer advising Zinara that out of the toll fees collected, it could retain 20 percent. I further observed that the fund did not have custody of receipts together with summary of monthly revenue collected on its behalf by Zinara, to enable it to independently verify the collection deposited in its bank account,” reads the audit report.
The AG goes further to note that in addition to the anomalies road works valued at $1 million were done along the bridge but no expenditure returns were submitted to support the payments, with salaries amounting to $32 948 also paid without any pay sheets.
She notes that; “Making payments without supporting documents exposes public funds to abuse and fraud.”
The Government took over ownership and operations of the New Limpopo Bridge, in 2014, following the expiry of the 20-year Built Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement with the New Limpopo Bridge (Ltd), a company that constructed the bridge in 1994.
During the handover-takeover ceremony held at the border town- Beitbridge- NLB shareholders’ representatives Mr Thomas Proustow revealed that since the introduction of multi-currency system in 2009, the Government of Zimbabwe had received $30 million from them in toll fees. He said a total of 10 million vehicles had passed through Beitbridge border post since 1994.
Beitbridge Border Post is one of the busiest ports of entry in Southern Africa where an average of 8 000 travellers pass through the border per day and the number increases to around 20 000 during peak periods.
Further a total of 2 100 buses, 14 000 to 15 000 haulage trucks and 25 000 private cars pass through the border every month.