While nation is expecting in anticipation change to be brought with the new government, particularly the development of roads and infrastructure, the directorate of Roads network and planning put forth a number of challenges which delay the progress but is currently working towards changing that through a number of strategies.
The director of Roads network and planning, Khasapane Kikine, defined the roads directorate as the Semi-Autonomous organization under the Ministry of Public Works and Transport established by the Roads Directorate Act No. 16 of 2010. Its functions are to implement the government policy on roads-related issues. Other functions are to plan, develop and maintain all roads under its jurisdiction and carry out quality assurance for all roads.
The total road network of Lesotho that has been mapped to date is 7000 kilometers, of which 5900 is directly under the maintenance authority of the roads directorate, and the rest of the unclassified network has been delegated to the local authorities. Kikine explained that the technical asset value of the road network which has been established is not in the value it was created for. Its current replacement costs about 42 billion while the depreciated replacement cost is about 20 billion. This means that the country’s current road network has lost almost 50% of its technical value. He further emphasized that the financial asset value is around 120 billion, meaning that the country lost 60 million asset value.
When addressing the road network condition, he showed the paved roads in poor condition is 55% in comparison to the accepted international norm as per the study of the world bank, which depicts that it must be at least 10%. The percentage of roads in fair condition is 33% whereas the accepted norm is 25%. “When we talk about the unpaved roads, the gravel roads, it is worse. The road network condition is 99% in poor condition.”
He mentioned the problem which hinders progress is the budget allocated as compared to the needs of the road network. The road network needs in 2015 cost 4.2 billion as opposed to the budget of 700 million that was allocated. While in 2019, the technical needs were around 7 billion but the budget allocated was 300 million. Currently, the directorate was allocated a budget of 450 million whereas there are technical needs of 14 billion. “This shows how much crisis the country has in terms of connectivity. It would take 2 billion in seven consecutive years to recover the state of the road network. Standard Bank, it can be that we capacitate our local contractors so that they are capable of ensuring that no cent will leave this country but circulate within.
The industry challenges include lack of integrated planning, conflicting legislation for land allocation, limited financing and increasing debt, as well as climate change. “The biggest challenge is lack of legally established recognized professionals for all key players in the construction industry, who will regulate actions and make financing easily accessible”. Kinine also explained that another challenge is the limited availability of credit facilities and the contractors complain that the banks requires collateral equivalent to the credit. However, even though the bank has reduced it to seventy five percent, it is still high.
One of the current projects of the Roads Directorate is fixing the road between Maputsoe and Butha Buthe with the available funds. While the other is refurnish and maintaining the Maseru main roads including the Kofi Annan and the Moshoeshoe road. The roads which are going to be designed this year are at Thaba-Tseka, Taung, and Mokhotlong. There will be a feasibility study on Thaba-Tseka to Sehlabathebe. “In town, we are going to be designing the major intersections, trying to eliminate the dangerous turns, particularly the right turning movements. We will try and see how much funding we can have in order to try and establish interchanges”, he said.
The capital budget for this financial year is 730 million which is for upgrading the two ongoing projects- Mpiti Sehlabathebe and Marakabei Montsá. Some of the money will be used for fixing the sections of the major connectors like Thaba-Tseka,Taung, Mokhotlong and others. The road fund is 170 million which is going to work on trying to recover some of the structures that have been eroded by rain like bridges while the other will be for the maintenance of other roads including ‘Malesaoana to Butha Buthe road.
He then declared that the roads directorate developed its strategic plan taking the year 2025 into consideration, giving a year to work, and is trying to reshape the organization in order to address the needs of the roads network. The key objectives are to; enhance asset recovery and road maintenance, increase stake holder collaboration and customer centricity, diversify revenue generation and total cost management, enhance policy and process framework as well as to strengthen organizational capacity.
The National Strategic Development Plan whose goal is private sector-led job creation and inclusive economic growth, identifies road maintenance and asset recovery as a priority to support the private sector as well. It also proposes development of access roads to productive sectors.