SANRAL board urged to take control of e-toll fiasco
“Her attempt to rationalise Minister Peters factual answers to a parliamentary question concerning actual revenues collected from e-toll payment defaulters undermines parliamentary accountability”, says OUTA's chairman, Wayne Duvenage. “While Minister Peters appears to be aware of her overriding accountability to her oath of office as a Cabinet minister above her supportership of the governing party, Ms Mulder’s attempt to ‘explain possible misunderstanding’ when there was none, inspires no confidence for anyone, least of all investors that SANRAL is so anxious to impress.”
When e-tolling commenced in December, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) warned SANRAL that their “hook, crook and spook” methods to try and intimidate motorists into tagging-up would backfire. “And they most certainly have,” says Duvenage. “E-tag penetration has been dismal, with the vast majority of Gauteng freeway users have opted to take their chances as ‘alternate users’, and hold SANRAL accountable to normal business practice. SANRAL has failed to do so, persisting instead with excessive confidence in their own judgement and showing contempt for any advice or criticism. We remind Mr Alli that on 28 February 2014, he claimed that e-toll revenues had ‘surpass[ed] the target of R200 million per month’. “It was patently obvious he was using a highly creative form of financial accounting” says Duvenage. “Fortunately Minister Peter’s reply to parliamentary questions the following week dispelled the smoke and reversed the mirrors. Since then, Mr Alli and Mr Vusi Mona (mercifully) have been much quieter while SANRAL CFO Ms Muller has temporarily filled the vacuum as the main spokesperson for SANRAL. While the information she has provided has more detail, her interpretation of the facts do not bear professional scrutiny. Her fiduciary duty obliges her to explain rather than obfuscate,” says Duvenage.
OUTA consultant John Clarke, who has been monitoring SANRAL’s public accountability for a decade, adds that SANRAL has in every Annual Report over the past decade repeated its claim to be a ‘learning organisation’, espousing values of ‘accountability, participativeness and transparency’. “Yet the manner it has gone about innovating the Gauteng e-toll system under Mr Alli’s leadership demonstrates an entirely contrasting reality. We are calling for citizens to exercise civil courage. Likewise the time has come to call on SANRAL Board of Directors to exercise professional courage, and listen instead to their consciences. They have a solemn fiduciary duty to now take responsibility for the fiasco. The first question they must ask themselves is whether they can, in all conscience, support Ms Mulder’s recent statement warning motorists that if they fail to pay outstanding e-toll bills within the next month, they will be jailed as criminals”.
OUTA accordingly invites SANRAL board supporters to contact John Clarke in confidence so that he can show them some of the pitiful and distressing stories he has been receiving on a daily basis from the public, so they can see for themselves the injustice of the e-toll system. “They have my professional commitment to maintain strict confidence if they do so, and respect their right to draw their own conscientious conclusion,” says Clarke.