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USSD can kill roadblock corruption, here’s how

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ZRP

The Problem

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ZRPIn Zimbabwe corruption has certainly gotten out of hand, particularly police corruption at police road blocks/checkpoints.

With the introduction of mandatory traffic spot fines for all traffic violations in Zimbabwe, the local police force has become more forceful and aggressive in their conduct during these stops.

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This is worsened by the fact that the national police force now relies significantly on ticketing to raise funds for most operational costs after the government admitted that it had limited capacity to fund their operations.

Because of this, our police officers now have the right to collect fines; this is a very unusual and worrying mandate that has seen many police officers abusing this new found power to extort helpless road users.

To ensure some modicum of accountability, police officers who accept spot fines are mandated to issue out a ticket, which also serves as a receipt, the logic being that the payment is put on record and therefore becomes technically traceable and verifiable.

Some police officers have found loopholes through this measure by allegedly counterfeiting ticket books or not declaring paid up tickets.  Some “sources” allege that officers often alter the ticket amount and offence on the remaining copy of the ticket and then pocket the difference.

This is all compounded by the fact that our police force does not seem to have any means of verifying these tickets after they are issued. I can imagine that once a ticket book is used up it is simply tallied and thrown onto a pile somewhere until it is later thrown out to make room for the next pile.

I could be wrong, in fact I hope I am.  What this could mean is that once you have paid an admission of guilt ticket, there is no way to verify if it has, in fact, been declared to the state, and if your alleged offence has not been altered. Faced with this uncertainty and inability to verify receipt of their fine, most motorists would rather pay a bribe to make it all go away.

The Solution

ZRP USSD VerificationThe last thing that most people want to do after being detained and harassed at a traffic stop is to oblige the officer by paying an admission of guilt fine for a dubious offence.  But because the officer has the power of the law and time on his side, one ends up obliging anyway.

Once the police officer has taken your money, for most people the least they expect is for that money to be declared to the state. The police force has admitted that in many cases the money never reaches state coffers.

This has seen many traffic officers accumulating tremendous wealth at the expense of law-abiding citizens.  Currently there is no way to check if your ticket has been put on record and the money forwarded to the state. It got me thinking; what if there was a way? Well I think there is.

The solution is simple and relies on simple data capture and a centralized open public database. The first step is ensuring that the police force captures all traffic offences onto a centralized database. This is a common practice elsewhere.

At the end of each shift, or in real time, a police officer must be required to ‘book’ all issued citations onto a centralized database stating the perpetrator, vehicle registration, offence and fine surrendered to the state.

What this means is that at the end of each day or in real time, police HQ, traffic safety council, VID, revenue authorities and central government are able to track how much money the police have collected that day, and the profile of offences and violations on our roads.

Recently the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority indicated that the ZRP collects up to $7 million in spot fines, most of which is unaccounted for. With our public database that problem will be curtailed in many ways.

Even if all offences are recorded, there is no way of verifying that the data recorded by the officer is true to facts. Corrupt officers could still alter the ticket amounts and offense at their pleasure. Unless, of course, the public could verify this.

This is where a simple USSD app comes in. Once issued with a ticket, amendments to the law should require that within 24 hours, an issued ticket should be part of the public record, at which point a member of the public can query their ticket number to verify the record.

To protect the anonymity of perpetrators, the returned information should only show the recorded offence, booking officer, booking officer’s force number as well as the fine collected and surrendered to the state.

If a person issued with a ticket discovers that is has not been recorded or that the offence has been misrepresented or that the fine amount has been altered, that person can take their copy of the ticket and report the discrepancy.

This way if an officer of the law collects money from you, you will be able to ensure that it reaches central government and no corrupt officer benefits personally.

While this USSD app can help aid transparency there are still plenty of other loopholes that can be exploited, however, this is a simple solution that could go a long way in giving law abiding citizens the tools they need to hold public servants accountable and to keep abuse of power at bay.

What else do you think can complement such a tech solution? Do you have other suggestions for curbing Traffic Police corruption? Please feel free to share in the comments below. 


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31 thoughts on “USSD can kill roadblock corruption, here’s how

  1. This if implemented correctly might allow tracking of those tickets that actually get written.

    The majority never actually get written a written ticket, they just pay the officer and say their goodbyes and go without a written ticket. As a motorist waiting for the officer to write a ticket is usually time lost so they would rather just give the officer the cash and go.

  2. A better/ additional way might be to have a ‘private’ database hosted in the cloud (transparency/ anti corruption people) to which all people can post their fine information and experiences. Then that information will be publically available and searchable by all including gov and all can see the state of affairs.

  3. I dnt think the police Force itself would love this. They dnt want to improve their system for a reason!

  4. I might be getting old, but I’m starting to believe you can’t fix policy problems with technology. When you add technology to a broken process, you end up with a high-tech process which is still broken.

    This is where a simple USSD app comes in. Once issued with a ticket

    Let me stop you right there: if corruption is happening, I can assure you that no ticket would be issued. No USSD app can fix that.

    1. True, our solution is not trying to fix that. Our solution has a clear purpose. To ensure transparency in cases where a ticket IS PAID.

  5. the best way it to have an etag system on the number plates, each etag is linked to an account which u can top up money into. when u have a fine a police office just zaps a device and captures your car reg and selects the offence committed.

    for this to work it means all cars need to have an etag. this is more efficient. they will have to allow people to pay their accounts either via debit card, ecocash or bank deposit

    1. Its a great idea. A merge between motor vehicle insurance and road traffic regulators will be great to.

    2. The pers N commits the offense, not the vehicle… etag might be applied to national ID not the vehicle number

  6. this article is clickbait 🙁 The author surely knows that ussd will not and cannot “KILL” corruption. Oh, wait, stranger things have happened.

  7. i totally agree with the author…to fight corruption especially that has to do with money we should introduce more of e-solutions

  8. Another solution that does not hinge on the coorporation of the public which will likely be quite low is to have automated ticketing machines that will print a ticket for something has already booked into the central servers or whatever back store they will have through a confirmation code. No booking, no ticket, no need to reinvent the wheel on this one, these things exist and have been tried and tested to cover up as many loopholes as possible. Only big problem is the funding.

  9. government should shed excess baggage in administration, normalize pay-scales to release resources stuck in the unrealistic payroll of today. This will allow state to pay officers a respectable wage. That way the social contract of public servants doing their jobs can be enforced. as it stands how much does your office get paid? 150? 250? 350? what would you do if it were you?

    1. Though that may be tru, everyone is suffering same as those officers, it does not mean we should all of us should be crooked. Noble idea but perhaps it can be bettered by removing money from the equation and having driver’s license & vehicles work on a point system, removing points depending on magnitude of offence until license is suspended..

  10. Fellas the author inspired a novel solution to fight corruption to minimum achievable levels. This forum will be beneficial if we use it to further improve ideas like this through sharing suggestions and refining it to make it feasible. We must not be quick to shoot down such brilliance and innovative thinking. This idea has potential and can go a long way in creating jobs for us Zimbabweans. Thumbs up Taf Makura

  11. One day I went to the main Police station in Harare (paChargeOffice), in the evening, then I saw this policeman who had dragged his desk towards the door and typing on a typewriter on dim light awkwardly positioned. Later I noticed that the poor workman was trying to use the corridor light because, the bulb in his office was spent up and not working., so he was trying to utilise the corridor light which apparently was the only one in that long corridor.

    1. And we want the police to use cloud computing? What happened to all those computers put in stations a few years ago? Sorry gentlemen, some things are like trying to watch TV using a hand generator

  12. there should be a police squard vehicle with a camera recording all the activities with also audio recording like the American police force

  13. Good thinking Mr author but it only serves to grant you the choice of having your money spent either by constable Mayaya or General Chihuri himself. Either way the money is going to end up in some corrupt official’s pocket. Its tora-mari-united! These evil servants!

  14. This is a novel idea. It should be implemented and rather than just doing backseat commenting saying it probably wouldn’t work coz the police wouldn’t accept the system , we should push for it to be accepted. After all the police should be providing efficient service to the public, that’s their job and any way to make things better and more transparent should be welcome.
    For too long we have kept quiet and look where that’s got us.

    In the famous words of Bob Marley – “Stand Up For Your Right”

  15. This is a noble idea. It should be implemented and rather than just doing backseat commenting saying it probably wouldn’t work coz the police wouldn’t accept the system , we should push for it to be accepted. After all the police should be providing efficient service to the public, that’s their job and any way to make things better and more transparent should be welcome.
    For too long we have kept quiet and look where that’s got us.
    I even reckon the project can become a community project where volunteer developers develop and iron out the best solution which thus eliminates extraneous funding. And probably as a community project we can ask as the public for one of the Webhosting companies to host the cloud solution for free -look at what econet has done with the free Health Tips service – or if need be have crowdfunding to fund any monetary needs of the project. This idea the way it is now is grand.
    In the famous words of Bob Marley – “Stand Up For Your Right”

  16. i srongly believe that this is a long way to go in the fight against moral decay and corruption in our roads.

  17. i srtongly believe that this is a long way to go in the fight against moral decay and corruption in our roads.

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