Money meant for all SA roads is now paying for Gauteng’s e-tolls

The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) has released its integrated report for the 2017/2018 financial year.

According to Sanral chairperson, Roshan Morar, it has become clear that the agency cannot continue on the growth trajectory of the previous two decades during which the size of the network expanded without commensurate funding.

He noted that the last year was also a watershed in that  Sanral found it necessary for the first time to transfer an amount of R1.6 billion from the non-toll business to the toll road portfolio.

“This transfer, made with the concurrence of the minister of transport, was to reduce losses incurred as a result of sustained non-payment of toll fees by users of the roads constructed under the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP),” he said.

“All other toll roads managed directly by Sanral and through concessions operated smoothly – with increased use of e-tags on these routes – and were economically viable.”

This means that Sanral’s 13,000 km of non-toll roads is now effectively helping pay for just 187 km of Gauteng’s e-toll roads.

E-toll failure

According to civil society group, Outa, Sanral is currently receiving next to nothing from e-tolls, despite an increase in the number of summonses being sent out.

In a statement released by the group on Friday (28 September), it noted this is because the e-tolls collection contract has just two months left and lawyers are increasing the number of summonses issued – which ups their fees but not the collections.

It added that recent answers to questions put to the minister of transport in Parliament on e-tolls revealed that only 3,724 (24%) of the 15,505 summonses issued from April 2015 to August 2018 have actually been served on the defendants.

Of the summonses served, 1,320 are being defended, with Outa’s lawyers currently defending 1,028 of those cases under its e-tolls defence umbrella (78% of all cases being defended).

The minister’s reply indicates that R10.231 million was collected through this legal process from January 2016 to August 2018, while Electronic Toll Collections (ETC) spent R4.6 million on legal fees to collect this.

This is compared to the total outstanding e-toll debt of about R11 billion, Outa said.

Future unclear

President Cyril Ramaphosa had committed to resolving the e-toll issue by the end of May 2018, with an “official stance” on the system expected to be published sometime in August.

Both deadlines passed by without any statement.

The government has fluctuated on its position regarding the system, first saying it was to be scrapped, before changing direction saying that it was needed to pay off over R67 billion in debt.

It is understood that the e-tolling system is a hot political issue, with analysts believing that will be kept in limbo until the 2019 national elections.

Read: Massive increase in the number of e-toll summonses being sent out

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Money meant for all SA roads is now paying for Gauteng’s e-tolls