SANRAL’s behavior - inexplicable and deplorable
“The recent wave of numerous inexplicable, inaccurate and threatening SMS’s from SANRAL’s collection agents for outstanding e-toll fee’s merely reflects their bully-boy mentality,” says an exasperated Wayne Duvenage, OUTA's chairperson.
“The various media channels and in particular, social media are alive with a multitude of claims of inaccurate e-toll bills and demands for so called ‘violations’, along with breaches in the security of people’s private information. It is far too easy for SANRAL to fob these serious issues off as mere teething problems, especially after claiming to be prepared following the testing of their systems for the past two years.”
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) alone has received over 500 complaints through their website and hundreds more on their Facebook site over the past two weeks and one imagines thousands more will have not even bothered to complain and merely laughed these messages off. “Just because SANRAL has the technology for sending messages efficiently doesn’t absolve them from basic rules of common courtesy. If the system is supposed to serve people, SANRAL have a duty to be people centred rather than technology obsessed.” says Duvenage.
As a State Owned Enterprise (SOE), SANRAL and its collection agents appear to be unapologetic and confident that sending threatening SMS’s is an adequate method of extorting payment from GFIP road user’s, without first offering tax invoices to those that did not register for an e-tag, even though they are legally required to do so. One only has to imagine what outrage would exist, in particular from Government and general society, should any private company operate as SANRAL does in this regard. It is for this reason that OUTA has approached the Office of the Public Protector to urgently intervene to compel SANRAL to face up to its critics in a responsible and mature manner. The Deputy Public Protector Advocate Kevin Malunga has noted receipt of OUTA’s complaint for early resolution and we trust this process will be underway within a few weeks.
The current aggressive action towards debt ridden road users (and non road using citizens), is a far cry from the claims by SANRAL who, during the Competition Commission investigations into collusive practices within the construction sector, were to consider legal avenues to recover the billions of rands they overpaid to various construction companies for GFIP and various road work projects around the country, over many years. Six months later and with a final report published listing pages of collusive road construction projects, SANRAL would appear to be rather muted in sharing the detail with the public, of their legal avenues and progress to recover these overpaid monies due to society. Ironically, SANRAL continued to allocate tenders to those who overcharged them previously.
OUTA is also amused at SANRAL’s recent statements wherein they reflect their e-tag sales numbers and targets. Firstly, we do not believe their number of 960,000 tags in use on the freeways, which is the picture they are trying to create. We have caught SANRAL providing society with misleading information in the past on e-tag sales and their credibility leaves much to be desired on this subject. With Government fleets now tagged up, at best OUTA does not believe that more than one in four vehicles on the freeways are e-tagged, and we continue to call on SANRAL for absolute transparency on this matter, by allowing us and/or independent auditors to view the numbers on their screens that depict the actual gantry transaction volumes and percentages that are tagged. After all, SANRAL is a public entity and ought to provide this information in a totally transparent manner to the society that pays their salaries and who has every constitutional right to have these figures supplied to them. It’s certainly not secretive or competitive information they would be sharing with the public, or could it be that SANRAL regards the public as their competitors?
Even more amusing is SANRAL’s opinion that ‘people are seeing the value of getting e-tags’. “It’s not value they are seeing at all,” says Duvenage, “but instead, most of the minority of road users who have purchased have done so begrudgingly and under duress.”
Furthermore, OUTA notes with interest SANRAL’s stated target of 1,5 million e-tag sales, in an environment where over 2,3 million average unique vehicles use the freeways each month. It would appear they have set their targets lower than full compliance, suggesting their willingness to accept that many people will not pay. This is a formula for disaster, as research shows that successful tolling systems work when compliance is well above the 80 to 90% levels and those systems that fail, do so when compliance is low and the people that pay are outnumbered by those that don’t, which is the case in Gauteng.
OUTA remains concerned for SANRAL’s credit rating as based on the current SANRAL performance and the sheer lack of support for the system, the agencies are likely to downgrade their status at the next review.