Sanral boss reveals controversial firm as tolls sub-contractor

2011-02-16 13:46

Controversial businessman Robert Gumede’s company, Gijima, was subcontracted to provide hardware to the consortium elected to run the new electronic tolling system on the new Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).

This was revealed by National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) chief executive Nazir Alli at a National Press Club conference in Pretoria today.

Visibly irritated by a question regarding Gijima’s involvement in the controversial new 66c/km e-tag tolling system, Alli told journalists that Sanral’s contract was with ETC, a consortium that was awarded the main contract, and not with Gijima.

The consortium, he said, sourced the hardware it needed “and Gijima gave them the right price”.

Gijima made headlines last year when its Who Am I Online contract with the home affairs ministry, estimated to be worth about R4 billion, was cancelled.

The cancellation followed the discovery of alleged irregularities regarding the legality of the company’s contract with Home Affairs.

Gijima’s chairperson, Gumede, has strong connections with the governing ANC.

Home Affairs contracted Gijima to implement technology to track citizens from birth to death.

The project was supposed to link with the automated fingerprint identification system and to immigration, police, health department and revenue service databases.

The project, also supposed to pave the way for smart-chip technology such as electronic passports and smart identity cards, is currently bogged down in a protracted behind-the-scenes legal dispute between the department and the company.

Today Alli, after telling journalists that Gijima was but a sub-contractor for the consortium who operate the electronic toll system, said Sanral’s contract with the consortium had penalty clauses should the consortium not deliver according to the contract.

Alli also criticised the public outcry over revelations that a dominantly foreign-owned consortium owned the contract to collect tolls on the GFIP, pointing out that South Africans will have to decide whether they want foreign investment in the country or not.

He also warned that this kind of attitude lead to xenophobia.

The ETC joint venture, the consortium that won the R6.22-billion tender to operate the Sanral toll system, was the cheapest.

But, said Alli, “we took not the cheapest offer but the best offer”.

The Swedish and Austrian branches of the traffic technology company Kapsch holds a joint 65% stake in the ETC joint venture and South African company TMT the remaining 35%.

Alli rejected publicly expressed concerns that a large amount of money would leave the country because the contract had been awarded to a dominantly foreign-owned consortium.

Only R500 million, which will pay for importing specialist equipment, software and salaries, will leave South Africa, he said. “The rest of the money stays in South Africa.”

The two consortiums who lost their bids for the lucrative contract to operate toll roads were Hamba Goli (R9.02 billion) and Areya (R15.29 billion).

Hamba Goli is a Norwegian (Q-Free), Italian (Autostrade) and South African (Intertoll) joint venture.

Areya included Spanish (Sice), French (Sanef) and American (Open Tolling Systems USA) interests.

Tolls collected would be used to pay off loans obtained to construct the system and to maintain roads, said Alli.

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