Road safety hamstrung by lack of funds

The works minister Alpheus !Naruseb says the N$191 million shortfall in the NRSC budget does not indicate there is no political will to curb road deaths and accidents.

12 January 2018 | Accidents

Works and transport minister Alpheus !Naruseb this week insisted there is sufficient political will to tackle the road accident epidemic at a time when the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) says a chronic lack of funds and capacity blocks them from carrying out their mandate.

Nampa on Tuesday reported that Ambrosius Tierspoor, head of corporate communication at NRSC, this week said they the council needs around N$200 million to fully execute its mandate.

However, the council received only N$9 million during the 2017/18 financial year.

In December, NRSC executive director Eugene Sipopo Tendekule told Namibian Sun that “because of the myriad of challenges such as lack of capacity, lack of funding and lack of staffing, the NRSC is hamstrung in terms of fulfilling its mandate.”

He said that if the NRSC could access adequate resources, both human and financial, they would “do more than what is being done at the moment”.

Tendekule listed “political will” to “accomplish good results” and “proper funding” as two of the top components needed to solve the high rate of accidents in Namibia, alongside several other criteria.

He added that the cost of road crashes to the economy amounts to more than N$1.3 billion.

“This is not commensurate with the current level of funding, hence road safety funding remains an on-going challenge,” Tendekule said.

Horst Heimstadt of the Private Sector Road Safety Forum (PSRSF) told Namibian Sun in December that “political will and law enforcement is a major concern in controlling this bad behaviour on our roads.”

He said politicians rarely speak up on the topic and mostly only get involved after a person or persons close to them are involved in an accident.

However !Naruseb defended government’s road safety efforts this week.

He told Nampa that the budgetary allocation to the NRSC does not translate into a lack of political will from government side.

“From where I stand, it does not get any higher than the political will that I have been manifesting thus far. I believe that we will overcome that burden,” the minister said.

He further told the news agency that “if you juxtapose the money that we spend in terms of dealing with those who perish on our roads; to rehabilitate those who get maimed on our roads [and] those who are not able to move on their own… we spend money to do all those things.”

Both Tendekule and Heimstadt in December said that the majority of crashes are behaviour-related and road users carry a large burden of responsibility for the high crash incidences in Namibia.

“More than 90% of all our crashes are behaviour-related,” Heimstadt said.

However, changing driver attitudes will require multiple approaches and the commitment from multiple stakeholders, both said.

“I agree that the level of lawlessness is prevalent on our roads. Road rules are violated with impunity,” Tendekule said.

He added that traffic courts are clogged with outstanding cases which add to the problem and said there is an urgent need to amend out-dated legislation regulating road safety.

Heimstadt said the cooperation between law enforcement, and justice “is a major concern” in addition to a lack of law enforcement officers.

He pointed out that the current structures and systems in place to regulate road users are faulty and needs to be overhauled to be more effective.

“The fact that we are not winning the war against road safety incidents in spite of major efforts underway really answers the question on whether the authorities are fulfilling their mandate. There are many passionate organisations that would like to contribute, but lack of funding is a big problem.”

!Naruseb yesterday said the statistics indicate that road safety improved this year.

“The overall situation on the roads have significantly improved over the period 2017/18 as compared to the previous festive season [2016/17] as crashes decreased by 28%, injuries by 23% and fatalities by 15%,” he said.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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