Treasury dismisses e-tolls panel

2014-11-09 15:00

The Treasury has snubbed the panel set up by Gauteng Premier David Makhura to review the impact of e-tolls, refusing to appear before it, as scheduled, on Thursday.

The review panel has been holding hearings at the head office of roads agency Sanral in Pretoria. Sanral and the department of transport initially rejected invitations to appear before the committee, but had a change of heart after a round of consultations with the provincial government.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters and Sanral CEO Nazir Alli made detailed presentations to the panel for most of the week.

The Treasury was expected to come and unpack the issue of a fuel levy as an option to funding the improvement of roads, but decided at the last minute not to make an appearance.

Although the panel scored a victory by having Sanral and the transport department make presentations, the snub by Treasury would have set it back somewhat.

Responding to queries from City Press, Treasury spokesperson Jabulani Sikhakhane said they felt the department of transport’s presentation to the panel adequately covered government’s stance on e-tolling and the user-pay principle, and there was no need to make further presentations.

But Sanral insiders said the Treasury had made a U-turn at the last minute, questioning the constitutionality and legal standing of the review panel.

“They felt that this panel did not have legal standing and questioned its formation,” said an insider at the roads agency, who asked not to be named.

Gauteng and the national government have been at loggerheads over the establishment of the panel, which the province has pushed despite resistance from many quarters – including Luthuli House.

Delegates at the ANC Gauteng provincial conference last month made a resolution rejecting e-tolls, demanding that they be replaced with a fuel levy.

Sikhakhane said the Treasury, the department of transport and Sanral had gone to great lengths to explain the rationale and legal framework of e-tolls, including its constitutionality. This meant there was

no need for Treasury to explain this issue even further, he said.

“The rationale for e-tolling and the legal framework underpinning it have been well canvassed and confirmed by the courts, including the highest court in the land, the Constitutional Court,” he said.

The department of transport has made it clear that its appearance before the review panel does not mean it will be bound by its recommendations.

Transport department spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said the decision to attend the panel was reached after extensive consultations between Makhura and Peters.

“There had been conversations between ourselves and the Gauteng government to try to see how we can be of assistance in this process. There are questions that can only be responded to either by us or Sanral,” he said.

Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said they were not aware that the Treasury had snubbed the panel. He said their understanding was that its submission would be incorporated into that of the department of transport.

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