SANRAL’s financial woes of their own doing
Besides a six month period when e-tolling was interdicted between 29 April and mid September 2012, SANRAL has been free to launch their plan. They proclaimed with vigor in the Constitutional Court in August 2012, that they could and would start e-tolling within weeks of the interdict being set aside. "Ten months have now passed since that ruling in their favour and one has to ask why they have not launched as they quickly as they said they would," says Wayne Duvenage, Chairperson of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA).
"We are of the opinion that the system, the biggest of its kind in the world, is too complicated to implement in this environment and enforcement is a huge problem for them" says Duvenage. "The authorities have underestimated the backlash from society, which is the result of arrogance, poor public engagement and a lack of transparency by SANRAL throughout the e-toll debacle. The multitude of “after the fact” engagement sessions have been meaningless talk shops with no change of heart displayed by them, other than to soldier on and spend millions of rands on a wasted marketing campaign aimed at trying to convince society to buy into their ill-conceived plan."
SANRAL is a state owned entity and with the backing of Government, it should not be allowed to put its work on hold because of its own mismanagement. "We don't see SAA's flights grounded due to their mismanagement do we?" says Duvenage. "We are also surprised to read in the report of their funding shortage having a possible impact on maintenance of existing toll roads. What is happening to the funds collected from users along these routes, which are supposed to be used to maintain them?” Treasury managed to find R5,7bn in February 2012 to reduce the burden that SANRAL had encountered over the e-toll matter, which at that stage (prior to the interdict), was already a year behind its initial launch date. “We simply cannot see Government allowing SANRAL to fail. It's function is too important to allow that to happen and we trust this is not a red herring to try and garner society’s sympathy and support for e-tolling" says Duvenage.
The irony of this matter is, had Government applied a 10c increase to the fuel levy in 2006 to fund the GFIP (when the road project was hatched), we would have raised over R17bn to date (including the R5,7bn allocated in February 2012), which would have covered the capital costs of the freeway. As a result, SANRAL has wasted time trying to implement a grossly flawed plan to toll Gauteng Freeways and we have lost an opportunity to reduce this debt. Their e-toll plan is inefficient and simply too expensive, with hundreds of millions of rands planned to go off-shore. It will never obtain the required levels of compliance from a society that has lost all respect and trust in SANRAL. “This is an ideal time and opportunity for the new Minister of Finance to gather relevant stakeholders together and find a more equitable, efficient and acceptable solution to this debacle.”