Johannesburg - The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has voiced its concerns about minister of transport Blade Nzimande’s comments that e-tolls are now required to pay for the South African National Roads Agencies debt.
In March 2018 Nzimande said the ‘disastrous e-tolls’ scheme could no longer be dragged out and a solution needed to be considered by Cabinet. On Thursday evening, however, speaking on SABC News Nzimande said he was reluctant to pull the plug on the e-tolls scheme because he wanted e-tolls to pay for R67 billion of roads built by Sanral.
“The Minister appears to be either confused or misinformed,” said Outa transport portfolio manager Rudie Heyneke, “because the bonds obtained from the Public Investment Corporation for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project amounted to R20 billion and the Gauteng e-tolls cannot be used to fund borrowing for other roads.”
According to Hansard, the official record of proceeding in Parliament, then minister of transport Joe Maswanganyi told Parliament on 29 November 2017 that the debt was up to R48 billion.
“How did this shoot up R19 billion to R67 billion in nine months?” asked Heyneke.
'Around 25 percent compliance'
Recently the National Treasury’s director-general of public finance, Dr Mampho Modise, was reported by the Mail & Guardian to have told Parliament that Sanral was unable to finance the maintenance of non-toll roads because it couldn’t get money from e-tolls, and that the government needed to make a decision on e-tolls and enforce it.
Heyneke pointed out that only about 25 percent of e-toll invoices are paid and that, far from funding other projects or even repaying the original R20 billion PIC bond, the incomefrom e-tolls barely covers the cost of collecting it.
Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage asked bluntly: “Why keep the scheme alive if it can’t generate revenue to help with Sanral’s funding problems and, on top of that, why waste even more money waging a legal war with Gauteng residents by issuing thousands of summonses against e-toll defaulters?”
Nzimande stated in a written reply to Parliament on 17 August that Sanral was pursuing 6071 cases of unpaid e-tolls in the magistrate’s courts and high courts, but did not specify the legal costs so far.