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Government must ‘bite the bullet’ and make a decision on e-tolls, says Sanral CEO

While Outa claims stalemate could be linked to corruption and ministers ‘agree’ that ‘further studies be conducted to inform the decision to be made’.
With ‘no rational explanation’ for the continued collection of e-tolls, Outa questions whether a more sinister force is at play. Image: Moneyweb

Sanral CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma has called on the government to “bite the bullet” and take a decision on the e-toll scheme on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).

“There are no easy answers. All the options we have presented to government have very significant financial implications and I think we must just make a decision,” Macozoma said at the Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) Infrastructure Indaba on Wednesday.

“Bite the bullet and do so. There is not going to be an answer that is not going to affect South Africans in the pocket, including cancellation.

“Cancellation in fact is the most expensive of the options that are on the table. So it’s a complex decision but it must be made. It’s not assisting that we [Sanral] don’t have a decision,” he said.

No deadline from Mbalula this time

Macozoma’s comments follow Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula telling parliament on Wednesday the date for an announcement on the future of e-tolls in Gauteng cannot be determined at this stage and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) suggesting the reason the government has been unable to take a decision on the future of e-tolls could be related to corruption or the allocation of funds to areas where these should not be going.

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Sanral general manager of communications and marketing Vusi Mona, responding to a request for comment on Outa’s corruption allegations, said: “As an agency of the National Department of Transport, Sanral is not in a position to comment on e-tolls until there is a government pronouncement on the future of e-tolls. We will be guided by the National Minister of Transport in this regard.”

Kapsch TrafficCom

Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), which is owned by Austrian-based Kapsch TrafficCom, manages the collection of e-tolls in South Africa.

Kapsch said it did not want to get dragged into Outa’s crusade against the Gauteng Open Road Tolling system.

Its only comment therefore is that it strongly rejects the allegations of corruption in South Africa and Zambia, which “do not become more credible by repeating them again and again”.

Responding to a written question tabled in parliament, Mbalula on Wednesday again confirmed that the Department of Transport has tabled various funding options around e-tolls on the GFIP for a cabinet decision.

However, Mbalula said that after consideration of the options, cabinet directed that both the Department of Transport and National Treasury jointly relook at the options and resubmit them to cabinet for consideration.

Ministers want ‘further studies’ to be done

“The date for announcement on the future of e-tolls in Gauteng cannot be determined at this stage as the discussions around funding for the system continue to take place, focusing on the various financial options available,” said Mbalula.

 “The delay on the announcement is that the process to pronounce on the future of the e-toll takes time as the two ministers [Transport and Finance] had to first meet and in their meeting they agreed that further studies be conducted to inform the decision to be made.

“It is important to note that the department is committed to finding a workable solution that does not ‘drown the country in debt’ but is equally sensitive to the public’s issues and, once it is clear on the sustainable model, a submission will then be made for cabinet’s final decision.”

Where is the R50m a month actually going?

Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said Outa believes the continued operation of the Gauteng e-tolls, which only around 15% of motorists are contributing toward, has little to do with the search for a new funding mechanism and more to do with “where some of the current R50 million or so each month is actually going”.

Duvenage stressed that from an Outa perspective, there are very few options for the government to consider, adding the only alternative to e-tolls is for the GFIP bonds to be financed via National Treasury.

He said between 2016 and 2020 Treasury had already allocated Sanral R10.8 billion for GFIP, which accounts for about 51% of the freeway bonds for the overpriced upgrade and is on top of another grant of R70 billion – an annual average of R14 billion a year – for the same period for non-tolled roads.

“This has been the solution being practised for the past number of years and should continue to remain, as the entire country benefits from Gauteng’s freeway upgrade,” he said.

Duvenage questioned why Sanral continues to operate the defunct scheme when only a handful of people – mainly a few businesses who profit out of e-toll charges to their clients – continue to pay.

He said Sanral itself has written off R23.6 billion of the unpaid e-toll bills, of which R17.3 billion was revenue not recognised and R6.3 billion of the R10.4 billion that was reflected in Sanral’s books was impaired as uncollectible.

“Thus the failure to collect e-tolls in lieu of payment for the GFIP bonds is a fait accompli,” he said.

Factors pointing to possible corruption

Duvenage stressed this has never been an efficient or enforceable user-pays scheme and Outa believes that corruption, or the allocation of funds to areas where these funds should not be going, probably has something to do with the state’s reluctance to pull the plug on the scheme.

He said this conclusion is based on several Outa observations, including:

  • The five-year e-toll collection contract ended three years ago and was followed by extensions until December 2021 and no further extensions are possible – and therefore there is no contractual obligation or penalties to keep the contract alive.

  • About R50 million to R55 million is collected by ETC each month but how much of this is actually being allocated to cover the costs of the collection process and who are the companies that are supplying “services” to ETC?

  • Outa has unanswered questions from Sanral and ETC regarding the allocation of R10 million to a so-called “BEE Facilitation service provider, PRO-ASH”, which it believes was a corrupt transaction, with the cost passed on to motorists.

  • Allegations over Austrian-based Kapsch TrafficCom, which was implicated in a dubious and possibly corrupt transaction in Zambia to the value of $5.5 million, which was channelled through Kapsch’s South African accounts and resulted in individuals being prosecuted in Zambia regarding this issue.

  • The GFIP project at a cost of R17.9 billion, well over twice the price it should have been, provides a clear indication that Sanral either deliberately sanctioned the overpayments or allowed gross maladministration and undue profiteering from the project by local contracting companies.

“With too many questions and a lack of transparency over the e-toll debacle, along with the state’s reluctance to introduce a commission of inquiry or a thorough independent investigation into the scheme, Outa believes there is no rational explanation for the continued collection of e-tolls and, as such, there must be another sinister or possible corrupt motivating force behind its continued operation,” said Duvenage.

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How is cancelling etolls ever going to drown the country in debt. At the drop of a hat R10 billion can be found for SAA, a billion here and there for the SABC and Denel and other SOE’s not to mention 40 to 100 billion for Eskom so less than 20 billion for etolls is pocket change. Also we have proposals to spend 100 to 250 billion per year on social security not to mention 200 to 500 billion per year for the NHI from a government that thinks 20 billion is drowning in debt, something does not add up and somewhere there is dirty works at the crossroads.

Government bailed the Central Energy Fund out of the R14bn loss it made in a single year.

The problem is not the money, it is that the ANC would have to admit that its highest-profile infrastructure project since 1994 was totally chaotic and riven with unlawfulness and waste.

And just like the Soviet Politburo which is their spiritual home, they don’t admit to incompetence or learn from it – they deny it or ignore it, which has been the story of e-tolls from the beginning, hasn’t it?

I think the public already decided.

The user pays principle works. ETolls will never go away and Gauteng should just accept this reality and get an e-tag.

Most corporates, government departments, car rental agencies and trucking companies are already paying, along with some motorists who are doing the right thing.

The government can’t allow a tax resistance movement like Outa to succeed. So, because there’s an election on 1 November they are now vaguely promising “further studies” to deflect from the truth, that ETolls are with us forever!

Your EFF boss said that the etoll gantries should be physically removed. What happened to that? Actually why do you call yourself ‘EFF commissar’ when you are shilling for the ANC? YOu need to up your game a bit.

The e-toll system was created only by the breaking of numerous laws. If it is legitimate, why, in eight years, has SANRAL not charged one single person criminally for failure to pay toll?

It’s simple: they know what they did and they know they will lose, just like they lost in the Winelands Project and the HMKL Case and the N4 Mpumalanga project.

Roads should be funded cheaply by the fiscus, not corruptly and unlawfully – and at multiples of the cost – by tolling.

I am 100% in agreement with you about the user-pays principle, even if you are a rather tiresome and backward troll.

I don’t use the state’s disastrous so-called healthcare.
I use private security not the hopeless SAPS.
I am not a grant parasite so I don’t sponge on taxpayers.
My kids go to private schools.

The above constitute a huge portion of the budget, and because I don’t use any of the above, my taxes should be reduced by at least 90%.

Why should government block a “tax resistance movement”… But the citizens should just keep quiet and continue to be abused?

So wasted tax and endless corruption is ok?

EFF Commissar ….do you pay your SABC license? Doubt it

Dear EFF Commissar (whoever you are). Please get your facts straight. OUTA is far from a tax resistance movement. In fact we are on record as denouncing a wide scale tax revolt for various reasons. We are are opposed to the ABUSE of taxpayers funds people people in authority. But we will implement focussed revolts and campaigns against irrational policy (such as eTolls) when this is warranted. The EToll decision was an abuse of power and one that is steeped with inflated costs and signs of corruption, which is why OUTA took a decision to launch a focussed civil disobedience campaign against the scheme. If you think that most companies or even government departments are paying, think again. Car rental companies comply because they make money from eTolls. With a 15% compliance rate, the scheme has been widely rejected by society and whether Government pulls the plug or not, people aren’t paying and there’s nothing they can do about it. The fact that the lights are on, doesn’t mean there’s anyone in the dance floor. By the way, your hero Mr Malema is on record as denouncing the scheme in totality.

Dear Wayne Duvenage

I’m amused at your holier than thou attitude.

I’m old enough to remember that in 2018, there was an exodus of directors, that were forced out of Outa, by you, for refusing to allow you, to run and operate Outa like a Dictatorship.

There were also allegations of mismanagement and bad governance. Along with forcing out several directors, you also forced out Ted Blom! Remember him?

You claim that you’re against “abuse of taxpayer funds”, but at Outa you were accused of allocating yourself a salary of R160,000 a month without board approval!!

All these ex-directors at Outa claim that you’re a dictator. I have no way of telling whether this is true or not.

But what I do know is you picked a fight on moneyweb with a moniker called “EFF Commissar” under your own name! Clearly there’s something wrong with you.

Kind regards,
EFF Commissar

Dear Wayne Duvenage

I’m amused at your holier than thou attitude.

I’m old enough to remember that in 2018, there was an exodus of directors, that were forced out of Outa, by you, for refusing to allow you, to run and operate Outa like a Dictatorship.

There were also allegations of mismanagement and bad governance. Along with forcing out several directors, you also forced out Ted Blom! Remember him?

You claim that you’re against “abuse of taxpayer funds”, but at Outa you were accused of allocating yourself a salary of R160,000 a month without board approval!!

All these ex-directors at Outa claim that you’re a dictator. I have no way of telling whether this is true or not.

But what I do know is you picked a fight on moneyweb with a moniker called “EFF Commissar” under your own name! Clearly there’s something wrong with you.

Kind regards,
EFF Ice Boy

Effy my man — Your goats are wandering in the streets now — please go and herd them like a good boy !!!

Jammer baas.

I will fully support the user pays principal when you explain to me how the people receiving social grants are paying. After all they are users of the social grant system and therefore in terms of the user pays system should be paying for the social grants system.

Who cares???
We do not pay !!

The corrupt e-Toll saga was imposed on Gauteng residents, without consultation or oversight, by the corrupt ANC.

It’s an opaque and unnecessary project that there is not rquired.

Can e-Tolls & can the ANC.

Track record shows that this form of revenue collection will be used going forward as a ”honey jar”. There would be annual increases to fund shortfalls in everything. The people that will suffer the most are the poor.

I have worked with this company and they are an inept never caring bureaucracy that cannot make their own decisions. You have a bunch of broke people coming into work (when they are not on some kind of leave) taking up space in a beautiful building the tax payers paid for. To quote a famous president “YOU’RE FIRED!”

Once again corrupt and bad decision making by government will lead to the motorist &/or tax payer footing the bill.

However they’re right in that a final decision must be made.
We don’t need more wasted money on “studies”… Just the best choice from all the bad options so we can get on with our lives.

As usual when politicians are involved there isn’t really any resolution or move forwards is there?

The Gauteng road improvement project was initially launched prior to the Soccer world cup and also for the world cup. Nothing was then mentioned about it becoming tolled.

Right from the beginning, the government didn’t play open cards with the people of Gauteng.

Suddenly the gantries arose and whallah! We need to pay e-tolls for this rubbish. Yes it is rubbish, because they have not been maintained in the mean time. Driving to the Airport and back on the R21, you see massive patches in the once “new” rebuilt high way.

Furthermore, if you want to get from Pta to Bedford view or back for example, there are no alternatives besides the e-toll road. If an alternative route did exist, I would’ve used that route rather anyway.

You’re quite correct about the Soccer World Cup paying for the e-tolls. At the time we were told that the highway upgrades were to be financed by the World Cup, and this was used as an argument for having the latter in South Africa in the first place. Hosting of the Cup was basically Mandela’s dream, amply supported by the majority population who were not at all concerned about where the funds were coming from.

End of comments.

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