Outa says Sanral omitting outstanding e-toll revenue in its most recent financials may be a sign that it has given up on chasing unpaid e-toll debt. Photo: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) omitting outstanding e-toll revenue in its financial statement for the past financial year may be a sign that the state-owned entity has given up on chasing unpaid e-toll debt.

This was the view of Wayne Duvenage, the chief executive of Outa, who said the massive public resistance towards e-tolls is what forced Sanral to remove R17.3bn of the revenue charged as “unrecognised”, for fear of having to write off massive amounts as uncollectible revenue. 

This meant that Sanral only reflected their e-toll revenue as being R9.8bn for the full five years and four months of e-tolling to March 2019. 

“What was interesting in the past year, was that Sanral did not reflect their e-toll revenue as being anything more than the R688m, which is what they actually realised in cash from the scheme. 

“In prior years this was not the case and in the previous financial year ending March 2018, Sanral reflected their e-toll revenue as R1.87bn, yet they only collected R726m, signalling that the difference of R974m was collectable,” said Duvenage.

During a question-and-answer session in the Gauteng Legislature Gauteng Premier, David Makhura said the ANC’s final position on the e-toll issue was that Sanral’s debt must be paid. Makhura revealed that he ANC in Gauteng had no clear timeline in place to scrap e-tolls. 

Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni has also repeatedly indicated that users of e-tolls must pay.

Duvenage said while the Minister of Transport has yet to announce an alternative to the e-toll impassé, for all intents and purposes the scheme was now dead and anybody still paying e-tolls was merely keeping the scheme on life support.

“It’s time to pull the plug,” said Duvenage. “If the last 20 percent of road users still paying e-tolls decided to stop doing so, Government will be forced to announce the end of e-tolls sooner rather than later.”  

This scheme has been the biggest waste of time and money that we have seen in a very long time, he said. “We trust that in future, the government will heed the call for better public engagement and scrutiny before plunging headlong into a defunct scheme that they believe can be fixed by simply changing the regulations and laws that govern our country.”

The New Development Bank (NDB) announced recently that it had granted Sanral a R7bn loan to improve key national roads which will eventually lead to reducing transportation costs.

According to the NDB, the scope of Sanral’s project includes rehabilitation of pavements for existing toll sections of national roads, construction of additional lanes and rehabilitation of infrastructures such as bridges and intersections.

But Outa responded by saying e-toll scheme had failed dismally to fund Sanral’s debt, which now stands at R47bn, and had resulted in a bailout from the National Treasury and reshuffling of its Department of Transport allocation.