It is with a heavy heart that we voice out to the public the current situation we find ourselves in. NRFA has refused to finance redundancy packages for 26 RDA employees whose jobs were prematurely terminated. This kind of behaviour can only be attributed to malicious intention to inflict socio-economic injustice on the poor youthful Zambians who were part of the first crop of toll collectors and cashiers that kick started the National Road Tolling Program back in 2013 who have now even been blacklisted from getting jobs in NRFA for accepting to be declared redundant in RDA. While they were still serving in NRFA on secondment from RDA, NRFA decided to revoke secondment, employed their own preferred people and ordered RDA to terminate the contracts of the 26 employees effective 31st March, 2018 or earlier, but refused to finance redundancy payments.
The road sector which comprises the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA), Road Development Agency (RDA) and National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) can be said to be one of the most lucrative and well performing sectors in the country due to unrivalled income generation privileges it enjoys. In purpose, all the ACTIVITIES and EXPERTISE that create value in the Road Sector are the preserve of the Road Development Agency while the INCENTIVES to motivate those functions are under the armpits of NRFA.
It is the responsibility of NRFA to appropriate the Road Fund among the three sister agencies (National Road Fund Act No. 13, 2002). However, one would wonder whether there existed corporate war/bullying in the sector, especially between NRFA and RDA. While we suspect the two institutions may be hiding important information from us, we have limited capacity to prove whether they are doing so to advance their own unorthodox agendas.
Three years ago, it was resolved in a tripartite understanding between the Government, RDA and NRFA, that all revenue collection functions which by law are hosted by RDA must be handed over to NRFA. By so doing RDA would concentrate on the sole function of constructing roads. This, however, spelled doom for the workers that were employed by RDA on permanent and pensionable terms to handle revenue collection functions. These included Road Tolls collection and Axle Load fees and fines. Enough reasons justified the decision, but the intrinsic disadvantages falling in the process were either ignored, underrated or unnoticed.
Barely one year ago, NRFA through one of their Directors, assured all the RDA employees who were serving on secondment that the agency would employ them regardless of going for redundancy in RDA. Further, in a written communication to employees, RDA confirmed that the two agencies had agreed to delineate all the seconded staff to the NRFA establishment either through redundancy or contract transfer depending on the individual employee’s preference. However, along the way, they back-peddled on the commitment and discriminated against those who accepted redundancy in RDA and blacklisted them from getting employed by NRFA in any capacity citing government (ministerial) directive not to offer them jobs. As if this was not enough, they are now citing the most recent government austerity measures for their deliberate unnegotiated delay to settle redundancy packages.
If the government is indeed in detail, does it truly adjudge that the 26 poor youths should bear the sacrifice of losing jobs and also servicing the austerity measures? While it was a government directive to transfer the revenue collection functions from one corporate entity to the other, it can not be overemphasyzed that the government was fully prepared to offset the costs associated with the process. It should also be understood that the government can not allow perpertual payment of monthly salaries amounting to about K300 000 to people that are not working only to save the nation from paying them a one-off bill which is comparatively very affordable to settle. It would be tantamount to abuse of the law committing to excess expenditure on one obligation when the same resources can be handy in offsetting some other needs in government operations.
Article 189 of the Constitution Amendment Act No. 2 of 2016 provides as follows:
189. (1) A pension benefit shall be paid promptly and regularly.
(2) Where a pension benefit is not paid on a person’s last working day, that person shall stop work but the person’s name shall be retained on the payroll, until payment of the pension benefit based on the last salary received by that person while on the payroll
Seeing that they are not willing to amicably pay packages, RDA in connivance with NRFA opted to massage the neglected former employees by honouring clause (2) of Article 189. However, this does not errase the wrong-doing of neglecting to honour clause (1). In the official communication of the two agencies, NRFA is on record of having assured RDA of the availability of funds as at December, 2017. However, only the devil knows what transpared and where the money which was available has gone. Will it take another National Budget or two to mobilize such funds which initially were appropriately secured? Should it rather take to throwing stones….? In the last consultative meeting with RDA Management, it was put across to the affected former employees that NRFA has been adamant about releasing the funds meant for redundancy packages, or maybe, just maybe, they may commit to releasing such funds in small installments over an undisclosed period of time. This is how they choose to treat their former employees that gave their all…! Who worked day and night shifts in making the National Road Tolling exercise the success it is today. Such a misgiving is not even taking into consideration the time value of money to say the least. However, correspondence between the two institutions has enough proof that the said funds have been in NRFA’s custody already. This senarior begs for the following questions:
Why should NRFA choose to hold on to the funds which are not meant for them to hold onto but to be made available to RDA?
What benefit/interest do they have in so doing and why can’t they just pay forthwith and in full?
What are they doing with the already budgeted for funds or where have they taken the same funds to?
Beyond employment in RDA, the affected citizens made resolutions in line with the separation benefits upon being served with letters of employment terminations. In anticipation we adopted responsibilities and obligations some of which cannot be reversed. This has made us face greater challenges and hardships after exiting employment all due to the two institutions’ negligence and maladministration. Perhaps this is just one example of numerous misgivings of the Directors at NRFA and RDA. Are they truly transparent and accountable as they claim?
At times, citizens blame the President, Ministers, MPs and other constitutional leaders when things are going bad. However, in the actual sense, it is such individuals called technocrats or intellectuals entrusted with the stewardship of government institutions who work to tarnish the image and frustrate the efforts of the central government.
We are therefore, appealing to the President, all advocates of transparency and accountability, the watchdogs concerned with human rights, public expenditure tracking and monitoring to hear our cry and aid our cause for closure. Our interest is not to continue drawing salaries from the government for doing no work but to get our separation packages at once and save the public resources from over-exploition. As this is a programme that was initiated years ago, it was planned and budgeted for with a given timeframe for closure being 31st March, 2018.
It is hard to believe whether such managers can be trusted to transparently honour huge government projects that require colossal financing if they can ignore with impunity to amicably honour their commitments to 26 employees….! IN ESSENCE, WE ARE CRYING FOUL…! It has taken us several months of trying to reason with the two institutions in question but all our respectiful attempts have fallen on deaf ears of the two Managements. Now we feel enough is enough.