Roads Fund Administration (RFA) says it has spent K1.167 billion (about $1.6million) between January and December 2015 to compensate communities whose land, properties, crops, trees and other utilities were affected by road construction projects.
In an interview this week, RFA spokesperson Masauko Mngwaluko also said his institution has, over the years, been spending about six to 10 percent of its annual road development budgets on compensation.
He was responding to a questionnaire on measures being put in place to curb malpractices in the administration and disbursement of compensation in the road construction sector.
Over the years, communities nationwide have been protesting compensation offered by RFA for their land or structures that paved the way for road construction projects.
Ironically, many developers and claimants expressing discontent are encroachers whose structures are illegally lying within the road reserve boundaries (RRB).
Some quarters have also raised fears that this laxity is inculcating and entrenching a culture of lawlessness among communities living on land earmarked for development.
Mngwaluko said encroachers remain a big challenge to the road construction projects in the country.
He said: “The issue of encroachers is indeed a big challenge to us. And since compensations are supposed to be paid before the road construction works begin, unpaid compensations tend to delay the projects implementation as the contractors do not have timely access to the work sites.”
He confirmed that the majority of the claimants have their properties lying within public RRBs.
But he dismissed assertions that some claimants get compensations more than once.
He explained: “RFA does not pay claimants more than once. RFA has stringent measures on compensation payments that ensure compensations are only paid for the affected properties and that they are paid only once based on the assessed values included in the compensations assessments reports.
“During the payout, the beneficiaries are specifically identified by their identity cards.”
Mngwaluko also said before the compensation payments are made, RFA verifies the said affected properties to ensure, among others, that they really exist and will be affected by the road construction works.
Earlier this week, Minister of Transport and Public Works Francis Kasaila told The Nation that many strategic road projects are being paralysed by bloated expectations that government should pay out heavy compensations, even to people who flouted the law by constructing in RRBs.
He said: “It is a complex issue; and, definitely, the [compensation] amounts they are demanding are huge and it is becoming difficult for the government to honour such claims. This is money we could have used for putting up more public infrastructure.”
Kasaila said to correct the anomaly, government has erected new RRBs on the M1 Road to dissuade people from encroachment.n