The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) appears to be delaying the award of a tender for the management of e-toll collections and some other services until the government takes a decision on the future of the controversial e-tolls scheme.
Sanral originally published a tender in the Government Tender Bulletin in August 2019, with a closing date of September 5, 2019, for the procurement of the operations and maintenance of an open road tolling system in Gauteng and a national clearing house and violations processing centre.
The roads agency in March 2020 cancelled this tender, which was in the process of being adjudicated, but indicated that it planned to reissue it.
Sanral said its board’s decision to cancel the tender was informed by a review of the assurance documents from the agency’s legal and internal audit departments, as well as expert advice provided by the independent advisor to the board’s audit and risk committee.
Sanral reissued the tender on July 17, 2020, which had a closing date of September 16, 2020, but agreed not to award this tender until a high court review of its decision to cancel the initial tender was finalised.
The review application was lodged by Kusa Kokutsha, whose bid for the cancelled tender was R4.5 billion cheaper than that of the second bidder.
Kusa Kokutsha also applied for an interdict to stop the reissued tender process.
Dawid Claassen, company secretary of Kusa Kokutsha, confirmed last year that in the face of the interdict proceedings, Sanral had given a written undertaking to Kusa Kokutsha on August 11, 2020, not to determine the reissued tender until after judgment had been given in the review proceedings.
The company was seeking the substitution of the tender cancellation decision with an order directing Sanral to award the tender to Kusa Kokutsha.
The review application was unsuccessful, with Judge Johan van der Westhuizen dismissing the application in December 2020.
This paved the way for Sanral to award the reissued tender.
However, Sanral engineering executive Louw Kannemeyer told Moneyweb on Wednesday Sanral has not yet awarded the reissued tender.
“The adjudication process is still in progress and Sanral anticipates the award to be made by no later than December 3, 2021.
“This of course would be subject to any cabinet decision on the future of the e-toll scheme,” he said.
December 3 is also the expiry date of the current extension to the contract for the management of e-toll collections to Electronic Toll Collections (ETC).
Kannemeyer confirmed in December last year that the contract awarded to ETC for the management and collection of e-tolls had been extended by a further year until December 2, 2021.
“This will bring the contract to the maximum eight-year period, as was allowed for in the original contract, or shorter if the new contractor is appointed before the end of the maximum period allowed,” he said at the time.
Long wait continues
Gauteng motorists and Sanral are still waiting for a long-promised cabinet decision on the future of e-tolls.
This follows President Cyril Ramaphosa in July 2019 instructing Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Gauteng Premier David Makhura to resolve the e-toll impasse to allow cabinet to make a decision on funding the Gauteng freeways but a decision has never been announced.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) previously said this makes the awarding of a new e-tolls collection contract “financially risky”.
Mbalula, who has previously made several commitments about the deadline for the government to announce a decision on e-tolls, said during his budget vote speech in May that a government decision on the scheme was “imminent”.
Gauteng transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo several days later stated during a radio interview that e-tolls are “being scrapped” but subsequently backtracked and withdrew his statement.
Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said on Wednesday that Sanral is also waiting for the government’s decision on the future of e-tolls and cannot award this tender until the decision is made “and are biding themselves some time”.
“It will be crazy to try and appoint a new entity now with all the uncertainty,” he said.