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By Chisom Jenniffer Okoye


Sanral’s 10c blunder on Gauteng roads costs the country billions

The billions wasted on unwanted, expensive e-tolls - the current costs of collection now stand at more than 90% - would’ve been saved.

Gauteng’s expensive improved freeway system would have been paid off this year if the SA National Road Agency (Sanral) had chosen a mere 10c per litre fuel levy as a viable user payment option.

And billions of rand would not have to be sent offshore to pay for the current electronic tolling system.

By not taking that option – and provoking a damaging boycott by motorists – Sanral’s e-toll portfolio is under such pressure that Finance Minister Tito Mboweni had to announce this week that the organisation would receive a government bailout of R5.8 billion to cover some of the growing Gauteng highway debt.

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said the fuel levy option had been placed on the table back in 2008, when talks began about the funding of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.

Even that comparatively small amount would have raised enough money to have paid off the R20-billion cost of the just under 190km of road improvements.

Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said: “They had the option take up to 10c from every litre to pay for the the Gauteng Freeway upgrade.

“This would have meant the collection cost of e-tolls, which is up to R1 billion per annum, would be free and the capital portion of the 20 billion bonds would have been collected within ten years.”

He said the organisation agreed with Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s sentiments that e-tolls should not be a part of the future of the province, despite Mboweni’s pronouncement in his maiden medium-term budget earlier this week that the roads were not free and needed to be paid for through e-tolls.

“The current finance minister is not the first to insist on keeping the e-tolls, referring to it as an efficient user pay scheme. His predecessors and other transport ministers have also insisted on it but it doesn’t really matter what they say, the truth remains that the e-toll scheme is unworkable in this environment,” Duvenage said.

“The system currently has 25% compliance: only one in every four people are paying.”

Duvenage said Outa was not saying all road tolling should be scrapped. Tolls could be applied to long-distance routes that are not used for everyday commuting.

“Our view is that urban routes are social infrastructure and must be funded by taxes and fuel levies.”

He said this is part of existing government policy, because funds are allocated to Sanral from Treasury each year (be it through taxes or fuel levies) to build the roads.

But the “elaborate, cumbersome and most expensive option of e-tolls” had been chosen, with the result that “the collection and administration process takes up most of the proceeds”.

Duvenage said in other countries that have electronic tolling systems, the costs of collection average below 10% – in comparison to Gauteng where the current costs of collection now stand at more than 90%.

“There is nothing efficient about this e-toll scheme.”

He said if the government had started allocating money from a fuel levy in 2008 (at around R2 billion per annum), the initial debt would have been settled by the end of this year.

However, Sanral now owes billions because they don’t have enough money to pay their bond of R20 billion and is just getting enough to pay for the collection of the payments.

“For now, the way forward is for the public to continue with the public/civil disobedience campaign and refuse to pay e-tolls entirely,” said Duvenage.


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