SANRAL, don't blame failed e-tolls for R15 billion per annum shortfall
Almost six months have passed since the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, announced in October 2022 that Phase-1 of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) would no longer require the electronic road toll collection system (e-tolls) to finance Sanral’s freeway upgrade. Instead, outstanding bonds would be covered by a mix of allocations from the coffers of National Treasury and the Gauteng Province.
Six months later, the e-toll scheme continues to limp along. Thousands of individuals and companies who feel compelled to abide by the law, continue paying for a defunct scheme, while politicians fail to exercise their mandate to society for efficiency and productive management of the country’s administrative affairs.
In the closing months of 2022, Gauteng residents were told that agreements between national and provincial authorities regarding the allocation of revenue to cover Sanral’s failed e-toll scheme, would be finalised by 31 December 2022. Thereafter, the gantries would no longer be used for e-tolling and would be repurposed for other revenue-generating and road safety measures. On top of that, the newly elected Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi caught everyone by surprise by announcing that around R6,8 billion collected from those who paid e-tolls, will be refunded to them. How and when this will happen – and with which funding – remains to be seen.
Sanral’s annual performance plan (APP) was tabled in Parliament on 6 April. According to this, the decision to move on from the failed e-toll scheme has enhanced Sanral’s ability to proceed with attending to its mandated economic contribution. However, Sanral claims it will require R15 billion per annum for the next decade to do so. “This amount of R15 billion is certainly not all due to lost e-toll revenues, as the scheme had planned to make around R2 billion per annum, for contribution to GFIP bonds and maintenance, after paying the ETC collection costs,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s CEO. “Sanral needs to acknowledge that the e-toll revenues they hoped to collect from a scheme were excessive in relation to the overpriced 186 km upgrade, which OUTA had warned would fail.”
Duvenage said OUTA is well aware of the inability of various provincial governments to maintain their own road infrastructure, and that this has added a significant additional burden on Sanral’s finances. “ Sadly, poor governance and lack of financial and tender oversight has led to thousands of provincial roads falling into disrepair, with this problem eventually transferred to Sanral. They need to acknowledge that this is largely the reason for the R15 billion per annum shortfall and not the failure of e-tolls. We also need to scrutinise this alleged shortfall.”
Duvenage says the financial decision behind the transfer of provincial roads to Sanral’s care is not a difficult one. “Treasury simply needs to redirect roads maintenance budgets from the errant provincial authorities to Sanral. While this may leave these pothole-ridden roads in the more capable care of Sanral’s engineers and road management programs, it doesn’t necessarily deal with the issues of incompetence and the lack of accountability of the Transport MEC positions at a provincial level.”
OUTA says as long as the indecision and procrastination of dealing with financing the GFIP bonds continues between national and provincial government, Sanral’s quandary and financial squeeze will continue, as will society’s confusion over the e-tolls matter. “We cannot understand why it is so difficult to make these decisions, which need to happen before the next step of gazetting an amendment to the 2008 Gauteng freeway road-tolling decision. Could this be another political football that will be kicked around until the 2024 elections?”
Read more on OUTA’s e-toll campaign here
A soundclip with comment by OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage is here.
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