E-toll launch delay is a farce

Last week, it was reported in the media that Ruth Bhengu, the Chairperson of the Transport Portfolio Committee, indicated that the start of e-tolling was on hold pending the passing of the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill.

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13/02/2013 10:37:57

E-toll launch delay is a farce

“Quite frankly, this is another nonsensical example of what a farce the entire e-toll matter has become” says Wayne Duvenage, the chairperson of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA). “By the Department of Transport’s own admission, the ability to start e-tolling does not rely on this bill to be in place. On 15 August 2012, the Department of Treasury’s legal team argued with vigor in the Constitutional Court hearings, (in their application to set aside the e-toll interdict), that SANRAL’s ratings and ability to generate revenues were being negatively impacted by the delay to toll and that SANRAL was ready to toll within two weeks of the interdict being set aside”.

Well, what’s taking so long? After all that fuss and the interdict being set aside on 20 September 2012, five months have since passed and SANRAL has failed to start tolling. In fact, the first planned e-toll launch date of April 2011 was almost two years ago. One would have thought that they should have been ready to launch back then. All this time has passed and SANRAL’s service providers are still testing their systems and dealing with regulatory matters. One has to question whether SANRAL has ever been ready to launch their e-tolls plan, despite all the delays and false starts, yet they have often sighted OUTA’s legal challenge as the reason for their delay or inability to earn revenue.

Other matters which add to the concerns about the controversial e-toll plan are:

  • Society has never had sight of the record of decision by the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on their recommendations to proceed with e-tolling as the most suitable funding mechanism, following the extensive IMC interactions with numerous role players throughout 2012.

  • The public have yet to receive feedback from the Department of Transport’s about the input they received during the three public engagement sessions held during November 2012, and the Department’s opinions about this valuable feedback from society.

  • The public have yet to receive feedback on the 11,000 plus written submissions made to the Department of Transport throughout November 2012 in response to their call for comment on the tariffs and exemption notices, which they indicated would be forthcoming soon thereafter.

  • A new cloud of collusion and price fixing by construction companies that were involved in the GFIP, appears to have impacted on higher unnecessary costs paid for these roads.

This warrants a loud call by SANRAL to push an agenda of recouping some of these costs from these companies on behalf of society.

Despite SANRAL’s heavy advertising and marketing campaigns costing them (us) millions of rands, the public are not rushing out to get e-tags and their sales centers remain relatively empty. The claim of 500,000 tags “already sold” has remained static for several months now and everyone knows that most of this number includes tags issued to fleet and leasing companies, banks, government and municipal fleets. The public at large have decided not to ‘tag along’ and this must be of serious concern to SANRAL for the success of the project.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why e-tolling has not been launched as yet, or possibly why it may never be successful in the future.

What makes this matter an even greater travesty, is that had an additional charge of 10c per liter been added to the fuel levy back in 2006 (when the GFIP plan was being hatched), over R10bn would have been raised toward the project by now, which, when combined with the R5,7bn allocated by Treasury in 2012, almost all of the GFIP road construction capital costs would have been covered.

OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.