SANRAL must show us the toll money

OUTA heads to court to seek toll concessionaires’ contracts and financial information since SANRAL refuses to provide this information.

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07/07/2020 06:21:00

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      SANRAL must show us the toll money  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has had to resort to a formal request for information in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) from the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL). This comes after SANRAL ignored a written request for information on the contract concluded between SANRAL and N3TC, one of its toll road concessionaires.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA also wrote to the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, requesting that he intervene and instruct SANRAL to provide OUTA with the information sought.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “We believe that the contracts with ‘long distance’ road tolling concessionaire companies must be transparent and their books opened to the public, as we believe there is a possibility that concessionaires could be benefiting from excessive profits, part of which may require credit to the road users in reduced toll fees or returns to SANRAL,” says Advocate Stefanie Fick, Head of the Accountability Division at OUTA.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA acknowledges that public-private partnerships (PPPs), such as those between the Department of Transport and SANRAL and the concessionaires to build a number of our national road networks, are important. These PPPs are known as BOT (build, operate and transfer) concession contracts that enable private companies to build, upgrade and maintain South Africa’s national road network on behalf of SANRAL for specific time periods – in the case of N3TC, a period of 30 years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The intention is that the State will receive these roads back from the concessionaires after the 30-year period, whereafter SANRAL will continue managing the road network and operating the toll plazas. During the 30-year contracted period, the concessionaire is entitled to make a reasonable profit from this process. The question is: what is “reasonable” and how much profit has N3TC made to date?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA believes the public should also know what the projected concessionaire profits look like for the remaining years of the contract, including what can road users expect to receive in the way of lowered toll rates or revenue returns to SANRAL.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “The annual returns SANRAL has been receiving from the three concessionaires has been minimal and remained unchanged, year on year for many years. This would indicate that little is being done in the annual evaluation of the concessionaire profits, leaving us with a suspicion that the public may not be receiving a fair share of return from these contracts. During the past 10 years, the toll tariffs charged by the concessionaires have increased by approximately 80%, yet SANRAL has received a fixed amount. Something doesn’t add up," says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA CEO.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA believes the public has a vested interest in this matter, and the right to the information sought from SANRAL, thus the decision to lodge the PAIA application and get all the facts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “We can’t understand the secrecy. If our past experience with SANRAL is anything to go by, we can’t trust SANRAL to look after the public’s best interests,” says Duvenage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Having exhausted all the internal procedures in requesting the information, OUTA has no choice but to turn to the court and lodge a formal PAIA Review Application for information that belongs to the public. The application will be lodged this week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA is in the process of requesting similar information from the other two concessionaires.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The letter to Minister Mbalula is here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Listen to the voice clip: 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Picture: Shutterstock

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      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.