Great consternation by the public as over K25m fraud is discovered at Chingeni Tollgate

The plaza where the fraud was detected

* Malawians accused of not paying attention to the receipts they are given as the fraud could have been detected quickly

* Roads Fund Authority want to heap the responsibility of checking the authenticity of the receipts on us too

* RFA is just trying to push its internal corruption on the citizenry

* RFA should go on a civic education campaign to sensitise motorists features of genuine receipts

* Which should also be visibly displayed on the approach to the toll gates

By Duncan Mlanjira

Reports circulating are that officers of Roads Fund Administration (RFA) have swindled close to K25 million, but social issues commentator, Onjezani Kenani said he had been assured by the RFA that while it is true the fraud was taking place, amount stolen — which is yet to be verified — is believed to be far much less than that mentioned in the mainstream media.

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Onjezani Kenani said this is thanks to RFA’s “water-tight system” that its audit team picked up quickly and that investigations are ongoing to fully verify how much has been stolen so far from the system that has been installed in less than a year.

According to Kenani, RFA says the main challenge is that most Malawians do not pay attention to the receipts they are given as the fraud could have been detected quickly or even be prevented.

He also said system is heavily automated and the red flags were picked by the reports it generates, to which Dannie Grant Phiri was incredulous that if electronic receipts are given, why push the blame that “most Malawians do not pay attention to the receipts they are given”?

According to media reports, which RFA confirmed, six of their officers are under criminal investigations after being suspected of beating the system to defraud the government.

The system at the tollgates — both at Chingeni in Balaka and at Kalinyeke in Dedza along the Blantyre-Lilongwe M1 Road — are designed to detect and expose fraud early that include a 24-hour CCTV system and police presence.

But it is suspected the suspect officials were issuing duplicate receipts, and RFA spokesperson Masauko Ngwaluko told the media when reached out to that the malpractice was discovered through the toll management system (TMS) alert.

Ngwaluko said they have “a very robust TMS which is configured in such a way that it reproduces several reports and alerts” and when it raised some red flags on the issuance of some receipts for some classes of vehicles, RFA auditors moved in to investigate — leading to suspension of the suspected employees.

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Ngwaluko emphasised that the employees did not beat the toll gate system since the alerts of the fraud emerged from the system and pledged that RFA shall remain vigilant in checking for any malpractices.

The two tollgates, which the public tried to resist at the initial stage — they were imposed on the public — are expected to generate a combined total of about K5.2 billion per year to help finance the country’s road network construction and rehabilitation.

Commenting to Kenani’s post on Facebook, Zandi Kankhuni expressed his incredulity that people toil for the money that they pay at the tollgate, which pays for employees’ salaries — yet RFA “want to heap the responsibility of checking the authenticity of the receipts on us too.

“What are they doing (or is it smoking) there at the Road Fund Administration, really?” to which Fitzmos Thomas Murindiwa noted that RFA is just trying to push its internal corruption on the citizenry.

Gamina Plus asked if Malawians were informed of the features on the receipts just as the Reserve Bank of Malawi does whenever it issues new bank notes into the market.

Soko Mwanakhu Martin suggested that RFA should go on a civic education campaign to sensitise motorists features of genuine receipts, which should also be visibly displayed on the approach to the toll gates, while indicating that the citizenry should not be telling what to do but it’s their job to think that way.

Moses Bofomo Nyirenda scoffed at the assertion that RFA has a “water-tight” system yet money has been stolen while another asked how a heavily automated can produce fake receipts — thus asking the public to be checking their receipts.

Franciwell Phiri said: “In this country, more especially in government, every money collection point is turned into a money generation point for individuals. Everywhere they want to steal. Mentally Malawians are turning themselves into thieves. And everywhere big fish is involved.”

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To which Patricia Nayeja Soko agreed, saying “no matter how much controls you have, a system will always have flaws” while Hastings Thembakako said “most systems are defeated by collusion” and that “some road users may also be encouraging this”.

Paul Chikondi Nguluwe observed that another weak link Malawians have is the behaviour of not collecting the receipts when they pay for services, saying the way how swift the officials at the tollgates issue a receipt, one sometimes “wonder how long it takes to print it out”.

“I felt like there was a supersonic speed in issuing me a receipt this other day so much that I had to cross check the time on the receipt against that on my clock”.

What Nguluwe found out, he couldn’t explain but it seemed it probably didn’t match with the time on his clock because it was long after he had passed the spot.

Patricia Nayeja came back to observe that Nguluwe’s experience could most probably be the case of “pre-printed receipts left behind by other motorists”.

Brazil Hill said people already raised alarm on the manual receipts they started to issue soon after the tollgates were launched, which the Road Fund Administration assured the nation it will rectify but it is surprising that the same RFA is “now coming up with excuses”.

The bottom line through out the debate is that the RFA didn’t take it upon themselves “to sensitise Malawians on security features of the real receipts, otherwise this borders on serious incompetence and inept”.

Ceaser Chembezi was of the opinion that motorists concentrate on their journey that they cannot “also be busy checking the authenticity of receipts — “nthawi tilibe”.

“The other way is to cut down on cash payments. The Driving License card should be made in such a way where we can load money in it and just swipe at the tollgate. Similarly, model what others are using for water kiosk.

“For once, let’s be using technology. And they can even introduce a point where drivers can just swipe and pass through without using humans as part of the transaction — unmanned.

Iwell Gonthi Thawi summed it all up, saying: “The way this story is trending gives me one picture — that the tollgate was forced on Malawians and any scandal from the tollgate makes them more bitter. The story has served the purpose and this is healthy for providing checks and balances.”

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