by Lumai Mubanga
Tollgates around the world are used as revenue collection points from motorists on behalf of the government. This revenue, as expected, is meant to help governments maintain and build more roads and bridges. The idea is to prioritize road repair and maintenance without waiting for government budgets.
In countries where this has been successfully implemented, the road infrastructure is well developed and maintained. For example, in South Africa, the tollgate fees are one of the reasons why the country has an advanced road network.
Further north, there is Zambia. The country Boasts of an increased number of tollgates and a report shows K1.2 Billion or $60,000,000.00 was collected in 2019, with a projected increase to $80,000,000.00 the following year. However, there is one challenge.
Roads are still in bad shape
in spite of that revenue, many roads remain poor. One road user said: “………a bit of worry in the sense that we have seen how the toll gates levy is being administered in other countries. ………… But in Zambia the moment you bypass a toll gate the next thing ………. is either drive on the stretch of a bad road and yet you have paid……..service delivery is not matched to the tax you are paying……”, end of the quote as seen on https://diggers.news/local/2018/04/21/actionaid-demands-transparency-on-toll-gates-funds. Apparently, the government diverts money to other needy areas such as paying civil servant salaries and probably political campaigns. This alleged misapplication of revenue by the government disadvantage road maintenance. How can blockchain, solve this?
How present system works
The minister in charge explains; “…..immediately the collecting agencies deposit in Control 99 under the Ministry of Finance,….. computation is done and money is transferred to ………. domiciled at the Bank of Zambia….,” end of quote. Therein lies the problem. The government receives and controls where the money is spent.
How blockchain can help
To implement a blockchain solution, a lot of data needs to be on the blockchain network of choice. This will include lists of valid road contractor bidders, priority emergency road works such as washed away bridges and roads, and nonpriority road construction in needy parts of the country, etc. The database will also document all available toll gates around the country and how much is collected. To apportion funds for road works, the smart contracts will be triggered by those factors on the emergency and non-emergency priority list.
Smart contracts will then pick from the priority list of emergencies, select the desired contractor from the list, make an automated electronic payment from the funds in the central bank to the contractor’s bank account. The contractor will then be notified to begin the works through email and other government channels.
The idea is to minimize or remove the governmental handling of funds meant for road repair into other areas such as paying civil servant salaries. Managed in this way, all funds collected for the purpose of road maintenance and construction will be used specifically for that purpose. Corruption and misapplication of funds will be minimized and all road users who are the taxpayers will be happy.
Thus, not only in Zambia but in all other countries where misallocation of funds is rampant, blockchain will come in handy to arrest the situation.