Outa firm on road rip-off claim
Pretoria - Civil society group Outa is standing by its report that the cost of upgrading Gauteng freeways was grossly overpriced at R17 billion.
This comes after the South African National Roads Agency Limited accused Outa - which now stands for the Organisation Uniting Against Tax Abuse - of misleading the public in a position paper that said the money spent on upgrading Gauteng freeways was inflated at the expense of taxpayers.
“We stand by our facts on the Gauteng freeway improvement project,” said Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage.
On Tuesday Sanral claimed that Outa’s position paper, released in February, was a deliberate misrepresentation.
“They are trying to denigrate Sanral’s integrity when no court has found Sanral to be corrupt or illegal, so why do they do this?” asked Nazir Alli, Sanral’s chief executive.
Alex van Niekerk, roads project manager, said some of the reports Outa based its position paper on were not relevant.
The position paper stated that Sanral was overcharged by 321 percent for the construction of the roads and that Outa did its own research with qualified people and they concluded that Sanral was overcharged by 152 percent.
“Their own research found that we were overcharged by 152 percent, but they chose to go with the headline grabbing 321percent,” Alli said.
He said he could not say Sanral was overcharged as they went through a public tender process and that they were doing their own research regarding the alleged overcharging.
Van Niekerk, however, confirmed an amount of R17 billion for the project.
“They refer to benchmark studies and generic models without indicting their relevance in the South African context,” he said.
“Outa also fails to take into account many of the elements of the project such as the costs of retaining walls, drainage structures and the relocation of existing services such as power lines and pipelines.”
Van Niekerk said the position paper could be dismissed as early as its second page where it says the project entailed 185km of road when, in fact, it was 201km. Some reports that Outa used to base its position paper on couldn't be found and Outa refused to give them copies of these reports, he added.
Outa was given a 6 April 2015, deadline to substantiate the claims it made in the position paper which Outa did not respond to, he said.
But Duvenage said Sanral had given Outa a long list of questions through its legal team to answer. Outa was ready to respond to them but was unwilling to do it through legal representatives.
“We have the answers but we told the Sanral legal team that Sanral can meet us and that they could get their answers from us instead of wasting taxpayers’ money by using legal teams,” Duvenage said.
“They are nitpicking on minor mistakes and possible spelling errors and saying the report was misleading when in fact it is not misleading in the fact that these roads are overpriced,” Duvenage said.