The poor compliance in the payment of e-tolls was confirmed by Minister of Transport Joe Maswanganyi in reply to written questions from the DA’s David Ross in Parliament this week.
Ross had asked Maswanganyi what number of e-toll invoices had been issued in each of the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 financial years. Ross also asked Maswanganyi to give details of the compliance rate of motorists and the total amount of money owed to Sanral by those who refused to pay for e-tolls. In his reply, Maswanganyi provided the DA with a breakdown of payment since April 2015 until March this year.
The figure showed that more motorists using the Gauteng roads, which were improved as a part of Sanral’s Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, were not paying for e-tolls.
He said the compliance rate for February was 29% but added that the total amount owed could not be revealed.
“Due to the year-end processes and audits still to be concluded, the value of outstanding debt can't be disclosed.”
He said the outstanding debt would be made available once the auditor-general had concluded the audit in July.
“The audited results as at March 31, 2016 reflect the outstanding value (trading receivables), which would be for unregistered users, as R7.206 million,” Maswanganyi said.
Despite his gloomy responses, Maswanganyi was adamant that Sanral was legally entitled to recover all the money owed to it.
“The recovery is based on a 'user pay principle' irrespective of whether the user is registered or non-registered. Such a recovery process would be embarked upon once all the prescribed legal processes have been followed.
“Both registered and unregistered, be they individuals and companies registered in terms of our company laws of the republic, will be taken to court based on the merit of the case,” Maswanganyi said.
Reacting to his responses, Fred Nel, DA spokesperson for roads and transport, said his party had warned the ANC about the e-tolls.
“This (non-compliance) does not surprise us, given the lack of consultation by Sanral and government, both provincial and national, with the people of Gauteng.
"The will of the people and democratic processes were undermined to bulldoze through the unworkable and expensive system,” Nel said.
He said the DA warned the ANC that it could not force the system “down the throats of already overburdened South Africans” who could not afford additional tax.
“This is because the ANC does not listen and does not care about the people of South Africa, especially the poor, who are affected by the rising costs of food due to the increased cost of transporting goods and services on Gauteng's tolled roads.
“There was a cheaper way to finance the project, which the DA proposed, through (a) 10 cents fuel levy. If this fuel levy had been introduced, the roads would have been paid for already,” Nel said.
He estimated that unpaid invoices for registered users amounted to over R7 billion, saying “the people of Gauteng are tired of the ANC taking their money, only to use it on corrupt activities and to send it to Dubai with the Guptas”.
The situation became worse in February this year when Gauteng Premier David Makhura publicly admitted that e-tolls were a mistake that his provincial government had failed to resolve.
At the time, he said: “I must admit publicly, as I did last year, that all efforts we have made through the advisory panel have not led to the resolution of concerns of Gauteng motorists regarding affordability.”
In his frustrations, Makhura then urged the national government to take over the process.