THE suggestion by the Transport and Infrastructural Development minister Obert Mpofu to commercialise the Vehicle Inspection Depot (VID) is a commendable step taken by the Zanu PF government.
The commercialisation should be guided by post-new public management (P-NPM), which will ensure that the government modernises its public administration system in a holistic and integrated fashion aimed at establishing sustainable public institutions that can withstand current and future challenges.
P-NPM originates from the new public management system whose aim was to subject public institutions to private sector management elements of efficiency and effectiveness.
NPM sought to make public institutions accountable for the public resources invested. Critics of NPM say this form of public administration lacks accountability because it subjects public institutions to more managerial accountability than political accountability, which allows citizens to have an input into what should be done.
In addition, NPM was considered fragmented and therefore caused weak systems integration. However, P-NPM promotes the democratic involvement of civil society and systems integration.
This seems to be an ideal public administration model which will ensure an efficient and effective administrative system that involves citizens in its implementation. By providing input into how institutions should be shaped and managed and accessing business opportunities, Zimbabweans are directly involved in resuscitating our public institutions.
The institutions that result from a P-NPM system will be different; they will rid themselves of inefficiencies and unsustainable business models, but exhibit strong management systems and have a focused mandate which requires specific expected results while serving the needs of Zimbabweans.
This is the context within which Mpofu’s call for commercialisation of VID should be viewed. What is not currently clear is whether the commercialisation will constitute privatisation of services, public-private partnerships or a mixture of both. Based on the merit of each situation, it will most likely be an approach that utilises all three approaches or a hybrid model.
The situation facing the VID has grown almost out of hand with 500 000 vehicles reportedly unlicensed. Meanwhile, thousands of lives are lost through accidents caused by bad roads, defective vehicles and reckless driving by unlicensed drivers or those who obtained their licenses corruptly.
No person needs convincing that such a situation that provides for further carnage and lawlessness requires fixing immediately. However, policies, without efficient and effective systems, and appropriate infrastructure, will not help.
The government should not implement this commercialisation of VID in isolation, but as an integrated programme which will make sure that shifts made in one sector will align, complement or even build capacity in other sectors.
It doesn’t make sense, for instance, to commercialise VID with laws that don’t adequately support the mandate of the organisation; or have an efficient VID, but bad roads and badly-equipped revenue collection systems.
The objectives of commercialising VID should be to set appropriate, market rate, user fees that will sustain its operations and establish systems that will track and manage all the vehicle stock in the country for roadworthiness.
To accomplish this task, VID will need a huge investment in the latest technology and business models such as risk-based management for its operations. The fact that we record thousands of deaths and a large number of unregistered or defective vehicles indicates that the current systems are inadequate.
Establishing these systems will add another cost to driving, but that is a necessary cost intended to establish an efficient and effective vehicle inspection service set to make our roads safe and save thousands of lives each year.
The government subsidies to VID are no longer sustainable. The effects of the subsidies are being felt through inadequate funding and lack of appropriate technology.
Zimbabweans should not expect savings in paying for the commercialised vehicle inspection services. The prices for vehicle inspection services will go up to match the true cost of operating and maintaining the functions of the organisation. The only savings might come from operating a fit car that does not need frequent mechanical attention.
Commercialisation will allow for efficient and technologically-driven modern systems of vehicle inspection to be established on a national scale. It will also allow for adequate investment into the latest technologies and infrastructure using private funds from Zimbabweans and their foreign partners.
The integrated VID commercialisation should serve as a catalyst for positive changes in other areas related to it.