Whistleblower who worked with Sanral tells Thuli Madonsela all about e-tolls

An employee of the Austrian company that worked with Sanral to toll Gauteng’s roads claims that the e-toll system was designed to monitor 7 000km of national roads – suggested similar tolls were planned for Cape Town and Durban.

The whistleblower, who still works for Kapsch, has made a series of allegations about the controversial system – and says he’s willing to be interviewed by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s office to prove them.

Among the allegations he has presented to the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, which has in turn handed an affidavit to Madonsela’s office, are:

» that Gauteng motorists have been saddled with an additional cost of between R200 million and R300 million because Sanral’s e-toll control centre in Midrand was designed to handle the monitoring of all South Africa’s national roads;

» that Kapsch told Sanral the risks of a national roll out were “too high” and was ignored;

» that there are serious design flaws in the current e-tolling system.

For instance, the whistleblower claims, Sanral’s decision to use cameras and radio frequency receivers to read e-tags on every gantry is contrary to best international practice.

It was allegedly done against Kapsch’s advice and hiked the cost of the system significantly; and

» Sanral’s IT portal for the e-tolling system is vulnerable to hackers, who can easily access commuters’ personal information.

City Press has seen email correspondence between the whistleblower, who has a background in forensic investigations, and Outa in which he says he spent a long time considering whether to risk contacting the organisation.

He says he is supplying the information to Outa in his personal capacity and not as a Kapsch employee.

His allegations have been compiled into an affidavit by Outa’s John Clarke, who submitted it to the Public Protector this week. City Press has seen a copy.

The whistleblower alleges that Kapsch has suffered severe losses because of the delays in implementing e-tolls.

He also says the control centre in Midrand is the second largest tolling system in the Southern hemisphere and Sanral’s decision to set it up added about R200 million to R300 million to the project’s overall cost of R2.5 billion.

“Sanral had an ambition for the system to be planned and designed on the assumption that open road tolling would be implemented on a national scale, whereas [Kapsch] were of the opinion that the risk factors were too high, and argued for an incremental approach, starting in Gauteng,” reads the affidavit.

“Sanral insisted that the Central Operations Centre must have the capacity to handle several thousands kilometres of road with gantries erected to gather data from across the country, starting with Gauteng, but extending soon afterwards to national roads in KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape.”

Sanral refused to comment on this or any other allegation contained in the affidavit.

Clarke said in his affidavit that the whistleblower’s version described “an extremely authoritarian, command-and-control leadership approach by Sanral executives in taking major normative and strategic decisions”.

“He found their attitude ‘arrogant’ with an ‘inability to listen to any form of advice’,” wrote Clarke.

City Press understands that Madonsela is currently considering the affidavit and whether to launch a full investigation into the matter.

In his affidavit Clarke makes it clear that the whistleblower is prepared to be interviewed, on condition of anonymity, by an investigator from Madonsela’s office.

“The profile of the informant corresponds to what one can generally expect of ‘whistleblower’: loyal to the company, with a strong sense of ethics, but lacking sufficient authority and positional power to risk more than a confidential disclosure of information, and in need of protection from reprisals that could result from a damaging conflict between key stakeholders,” said Clarke in his affidavit.

Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona said the Public Protector had not contacted them about the whistleblower or the affidavit.

“As such, we are not aware of the contents of the said affidavit,” he said.

“We shall respond to her investigation, if she decides to carry one out, but we reject the allegations made by the so-called informant.”

Kapsch’s chief marketing officer Alf Netek said the company was in a “collaborative, respectful and productive relationship with Sanral”.

“Please understand that as we are not aware of this affidavit and do not know its contents respectively, we are not able to comment on it,” he said.

» This article was updated after first published to correct the alleged increase to the project's overall cost.

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