Where your e-toll billions are going

An e-toll gantry in Gauteng.
An e-toll gantry in Gauteng.

Cape Town – Following the Department of Transport’s revelation this month that R2.2bn has been paid to an Austrian firm to collect e-toll fees, action group OUTA has calculated that this makes up 74% of the system’s total e-toll income.

Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said in a parliamentary response earlier this month that Austrian-owned e-toll collection company ETC received R2.2bn for full toll operations since the inception of e-tolls on 3 December 2013. 

OUTA has calculated that the total income received from December 2013 to March 2017 was R2.9bn, meaning that 74% of that was being paid to the foreign company.

“At an average of R55m per month paid to ETC, and with the current e-toll income levels at around R63m per month, virtually no money is going toward the e-toll bonds,” OUTA said in a statement on Monday.

“This is clearly a problem for Sanral and explains why their bond auctions are not attracting any investors, pushing this state-owned entity to the brink of financial failure,” it said.  

Maswanganyi also revealed in a parliamentary response earlier this month that only 29% of the invoices issued in the last 24 months had been paid.

“Our assessment of Sanral’s latest reporting indicates they are not accounting for e-toll revenues billed at the punitive tariffs, but instead are reflecting their invoicing and outstanding revenues at the discounted e-tag rates,” OUTA chairperson Wayne Duvenage said on Monday.  

OUTA and Sanral are involved in a test case over the e-toll system.

Duvenage said OUTA had filed its papers in response to Sanral’s declarations against its members, who are non-paying road users. “We believe our cases are all extremely strong,” said Duvenage.

“Not only are Sanral going to be faced with a tough challenge when it comes to defending the lawfulness of the e-toll decision on constitutional grounds, but we have also uncovered numerous failures when it comes to billing errors and processes within the scheme.”

Responding to the court action, Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona told Fin24 in late May that “OUTA continues to state that tolling is illegal and users don’t need to pay, which in our opinion is incorrect and does not reflect the findings in the previous court decisions”.  

“We reiterate that the Public Finance Management Act requires Sanral as an agency of government to take all necessary steps to collect what is owed to the state.

“In Sanral’s opinion, legal certainty was previously provided by various courts, i.e. the Constitutional Court, High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal and the plea filed does not appear to introduce any new material matters which were not previously before the courts.”

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