Cameras are intended to monitor everything that is happening at toll booths.
By Marina Stojanovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 16/08/13
Macedonia collected 9.6 million euros in toll charges in the first six months of the year. (Tomislav Georgiev/SETimes)
A rash of corruption and overcharging of motorists on Macedonia roadways prompted officials in install video cameras on toll areas to provide 24-hour monitoring of toll booth employees.
"This system will help eliminate all past manipulations performed at the pay tolls such as the lump-sum payment of tolls by the cashiers, or the familiar system of charging half-and-half (with half of the toll being pocketed by the employee)," Ljupco Georgievski, director of the public enterprise for state roads, told SETimes.
The cameras record the employees' actions, transactions and the license plates of vehicles moving through the tolls.
"Having in mind that now there are also cameras inside the cabins, and we also have panoramic images of the pay tolls and this means we have an insight of what is happening also around the pay toll cabins, I consider that the safety on the roads would be improved because now we have an insight of all vehicles that pass," Georgievski said.
The recordings are for internal use and will be delivered to the Ministry of Internal Affairs if required.
Georgievski said the cameras are a necessary tool in the modernisation of tolls in Macedonia, which is expected to include electronic toll collection by 2015.
"The modernisation of pay tolls is performed with the funds of the European bank. The selection of the companies that passed the first qualification stage has been made. The most favorable offer would be selected out of these, and the company that will be selected would have to terminate the entire process in 18 months," Georgievski said.
Mitko Gestakovski of Skopje, who owns a transportation company, said he appreciates the cameras.
"I don't mind having cameras at the toll ramps," he told SETimes. "On the contrary, I think that it is all right to place them because there will be an insight of the toll collection and an end of manipulations will be put. I often travel and many times I've experienced situations when fiscal bills are not issued. I think that it's about time to modernise the toll ramps same as everywhere in Europe."
Ljupco Stojanovski of Skopje was surprised to see the cameras in use.
"Now most probably we won't be hearing about massive arrests of the cashiers, because it is not a secret that they were making manipulations with the toll collection. So the cameras are all right, however the recordings should not be abused," Stojanovski told SETimes.
Corruption at the toll booths has been an on-going problem. In 2007 a police operation arrested 75 cashiers, although charges were dropped against all but 12 of them for lack of evidence. Four years later, police arrested 87 cashiers on charges they defrauded the state by about 2 million euros in collection. The defendants received prison terms ranging from eight months to six years, while four organisers of the scheme were also ordered to return about 80,000 euros each.
Statistics show that 9.6 million euros have been collected in tolls in the first half of this year, an increase from 8.25 million in the same period last year.
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