Tanzania Makes Baby Steps in e-Parking Revenue Collection
Tanzania, East Africa’s biggest country by size, is introducing use of modern technology in the collection of parking fees, despite initial missteps in the process that is expected to minimize the use of manual parking fee collection systems.
In major Tanzanian cities such as Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Dodoma, Singida and Iringa, parking has been identified as the major course of mobility challenges including traffic congestion, and which the government now wants to address through the launch TARURA e -Revenue Management Information System (TeRMIS).
The system has been introduced by Tanzania Rural Roads Agency (TARURA), a state company that was formed in 2017 to manage urban parking and toll revenue collection, a role previously carried out by the local authorities.
TARURA says TeRMIS eliminates the need for parking attendants and minimizes the risk of loss of revenue as the process is cashless.
In Tanzania’s second largest city of Mwanza, TARURA has partnered with a local technology company, NPK Technologies, to roll out TeRMIS with the use of the globally distributed SCANaCAR solution pioneered by Dutch firm Abstract Computing International BV (ACI), a specialist in digital image analysis products, and which makes options such as pay-by-phone parking more convenient.
SCANaCAR has three options including ScanScooter, ScanAuto and ScanPDA, all of which enable parking enforcement based on Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR).
At least 10 inspectors and a parking enforcement team have been assigned the use of a scooter that is fitted with four cameras that can easily read the license plate of a parked vehicle.
The cameras scan parked vehicles within 5m on both sides of the car with number plates. Even in situations where there is parallel parking, the cameras can read the vehicles’ number plates while driving at 40km/h or more so long as there is a 30cm gap between the parallel packed vehicles.
Each of the four cameras has two slots for 4G SIMs, one from Vodacom and the other from Airtel, the two leading mobile service providers in Tanzania. The data collected such as vehicle registration numbers, latitude and longitude of the parking lot and photos is transmitted to the government’s e-payment database that has partially been integrated with the SCANaCAR system.
The motorist then receives an SMS on the mobile phone with details on the parking fee that is due and which can be paid via any of the approved billing systems in Tanzania, such as the Government electronic Payment Gateway (GePG).
Alternatively, motorists with an internet connection can also access the TARURA parking system payment link. They can then tap on the option for ‘Request’ to pay. A link is sent to the mobile phone to initiate payment. The link comes from either Vodacom or Airtel with a prompt to input the secret code to complete the payment procedure.
However, the e-parking revenue collection system, being new in Tanzania, is grappling with teething problems that has delayed its roll-out to all urban areas that provide parking services.
“A survey of the e-parking system shows the scanning of a vehicle’s number plate using a scooter or handheld scanning device to capture the vehicle registration number, type of car and location, that are used to determine parking fee and time,” said Charles Kichere, an official at Tanzania’s Ministry of Finance.
However, Kichere says a review of the system revealed “the vendor manually compares scanned motor vehicles registration numbers with Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) vehicles database dump file to determine car type.”
Both the SCANaCAR and TRA systems are not fully integrated, and also in some urban areas the e-parking revenue system “cannot automatically determine the location of a parking area; instead it is entered manually which is prone to human errors.”
“The manual comparison of motor vehicles registration numbers with those in the TRA database dump file and entering of parking location are prone to human error that can result to charging wrong fee,” says Kichere.
The delay in completing integration of the SCANaCAR and TRA systems and the manual reconciliation of scanned and billed vehicles has created loopholes that leave out several motorists from paying for parking services.
For example, a survey of the system between January and June 2020 indicated only 1,398,140 vehicles were scanned through the SCANaCAR system and the motorists paid for the parking while another 1,139,483 vehicles were scanned, but could not be found in the payment tickets list and were, therefore, not billed.
In October 2021, TARURA suspended the use of the electronic parking revenue collection system and reverted to manual option to pave way for government experts to address raised concerns.
The use of manual system has become the default option when technology fails, yet the government has in recently said the use of parking attendants “poses various challenges such as loss of revenue, spending of cash collected before it is banked and some motorists colluding with parking attendants to evade paying fee.”
Some of the concerns raised about the electronic parking fee payment system include claims by motorists they were not being notified in time on the parking fee they owe TARURA. The agency, however, now says the concerns will be addressed by ensuring “customers will be provided with a timely invoice, the amount charged, the date and location when they use the parking lot.”
TARURA has also intervened to regulate the parking fee rates. While the hourly fee has been maintained at TZS 500 (US$0.2) across all cities, the daily rate has been revised downwards to a minimum of TZS 1000 (US$0.4) and maximum of TZS 2500 (US$1). The previous rate was a minimum of TZS 1500 (US$0.6) and maximum of (US$1.9). The rates have been calculated based on a variety of criteria such as high demand for parking slots.
Meanwhile, TARURA has drafted a plan to transfer 40 precent of the parking revenue to local governments starting in 2022/2023 fiscal year that commences in June 2022, to be used for to finance road cleaning, drainage and installation and operation of road lighting in urban areas.
Between July 2019 and June 2020, TARURA collected TZS 13,447,836,878 (US$ 5.8 million) in parking fee across all cities and towns with on-street and off-street parking lots in Tanzania.
Moreover, electronic revenue collection in Tanzania is likely to grow as the country’s level of mobile and internet penetration expands.
The mobile penetration increased by 1.6 percnt between January 2019 and January 2020 with at least 44.13 million people in Tanzania now having access to a mobile phone while the country’s national internet penetration level is now at 50 percent.
The growing connection levels could be the key driver of modernization of on-street and off-street parking management in Tanzania.
Shem Oirere is Parking Today’s on the ground reporter in Africa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.