Following Minister Joe Maswanganyi’s recent update and explanation of the e-toll situation in Parliament last week, OUTA has deduced that of the R2,9 billion e-toll income received from motorists since inception (December 2013) to March 2017, the Austrian-owned e-toll collection company ETC was paid R2,2 billion (i.e., 74%).
This is a clear indication of how irrational the scheme has become and what makes matters worse is the compliance levels continue to decline year on year. At an average of R55 million per month paid to ETC, and with the current e-toll income levels at around R63 million per month, virtually no money is going toward the e-toll bonds. 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.
“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,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA Chairperson.
Reflecting all e-toll invoices at the discounted rate suggests SANRAL wants to present outstanding debt lower, despite the fact that they are reflecting the outstanding debt to unregistered road users at the higher punitive tariff. At the discounted value, SANRAL will still be owed around R9,2 billion as of the end of March 2017. OUTA believes that SANRAL will not be able to collect a meaningful portion of this debt, regardless of litigation outcomes going forward.
The e-toll litigation process is in full swing, with OUTA having filed its papers in response to SANRAL’s declarations against its members. These cases will be ventilated in both the high court and magistrate courts in the latter part of the year. In all instances, there is a constitutional element to each case, along with the technical elements that will be argued. We believe the courts will not want to be clogged up with numerous cases and that a few cases will first be tested in court to establish the way forward for the e-toll debacle.
“We believe our cases are all extremely strong,” says 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.”