Fiji Labour Party has called on the Fiji Roads Authority to account for the massive $3billion it has received in the last 7 years to keep our roads motorable.
“Most roads are so riddled with potholes that driving on them can be dangerous particularly at night and in bad weather. It is a question of safety of drivers and passengers,” says Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.
Yet FRA chief executive Jonathan Moore says the Authority will no longer repair potholes.
He claims that the roads are at breaking point. They have disintegrated to such an extent that it is no longer feasible or cost-efficient to repair the pot holes.
They need complete rehabilitation with new roads built over existing roads. This will give them a life span of another 20-25 years whereas potholes that are repaired only last a couple of weeks, Mr Moore said.
“This maybe so, but FRA has the responsibility, duty of care, to maintain our roads in good and safe condition at all times. The potholes have to be filled. They are endangering public safety. Moore cannot just say we will no longer repair potholes – this is shirking responsibility,” Mr. Chaudhry said.
“It takes FRA more than a month to rehabilitate a 3 km stretch, judging by the work currently being done on Ratu Sukuna Road by China Railway.
FRA says its plan is to rehabilitate the major Suva roads first over the next 18 months. Does this mean that the municipal roads in the suburban areas will be left in their current deplorable condition for another two years or so? This is not acceptable.
Mr Chaudhry said no matter where you go roads are generally in a shocking state – Suva, Labasa, Nadi, Ba, Lautoka – all municipal roads have been neglected.
“Mr Moore needs to explain why the roads were allowed to deteriorate to breaking point? He cannot claim budget constraints. Three billion dollars is a massive sum by any standards for road repairing and rehabilitation.
“It means an average allocation of $430 million a year for road works. The taxpayer has a right to ask where has this massive funding gone to?
Vehicle owners pay a special Road User levy introduced in 2009, annual registration fee or wheel tax and a hefty Customs duty on fuel (66c per litre plus import and ordinary VAT of 19%). Despite this, motorists are forced to suffer deplorable and unsafe road conditions.
There has been a pathetic lack of accountability and transparency in FRA’s handling of funds. It’s annual reports are not tabled in Parliament. The FRA website shows the last posted report was for 2015/16.
FRA is employing highly paid expatriates and overseas contractors who then sub-contract out work to local contractors. A number of the big contracts are going to China Railway under one name or another despite the mess it made of the Nakasi-Nausori section of the Kings Highway, resulting in the termination of its contract.
Prior to the establishment of FRA in 2012, the Public Works Department had the responsibility for road construction and maintenance for which it was given just $80m. But our roads were much better maintained then compared to today.