Johannesburg – Seventy four percent, or very nearly three out of every four e-toll rands collected by Sanral, goes straight to Austrian-owned e-toll collection company ETC.
That’s what came out of new transport minister Joe Maswanganyi’s update and explanation of the e-toll situation in Parliament last week, says the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse. Of the R2.9 billion in e-toll income received from motorists since the scheme’s inception in December 2013 to the end of March 2017, ETC has been paid R2,2 billion – or 74 percent.
And it’s getting worse, says Outa, as fewer and fewer motorists actually pay their e-toll bills, while ETC still gets paid for every invoice it sends out.
An average of R55 million a month goes to ETC while current e-toll income sits at about R63 million a month, which means virtually no money goes towards paying off the R20 billion that the scheme cost in the first place. No wonder Sanral can't get investors for its bond auctions.
Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage also pointed out that analysis of Sanral’s figures indicates it is showing all the outstanding and unpaid e-tolls at the lower rate for e-tags, even though it’s still billing motorists who refuse to get tagged at the higher, unregistered rate. That way, said Duvenage, the totals for outstanding revenues look much lower than they really are, painting a slightly less damning picture of the situation.
But even at the discounted value, he estimated, Sanral was owed about R9.2 billion in total at the end of March 2017, and he did not see it being able to collect a meaningful portion of that, regardless of the outcome of the ongoing court cases.
To be tested in court
And that process is in full swing, he said; Outa has filed its papers in response to Sanral’s summonses against its members, and these cases will be heard in both the high court and magistrate courts towards the end of 2017.
“In every case, there’s a constitutional element," he said, "as well as the technical elements that will be argued in court. We believe the courts won’t want to be clogged up with hundreds of hearings and that a few cases will first be tested in court to establish the way forward for the e-toll debacle.
“Not only is Sanral going to be faced with a tough challenge defending the e-toll decision on constitutional grounds, but we’ve also found numerous billing errors and failed processes within the scheme, which will make those individual summonses invalid.”