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Judging from comments by the Minister of Transport urging the public to purchase e-tags and other communication being sent out by SANRAL this week, it is clear that Government intends to launch e-tolling before the court review in November.
Having filed its replying affidavit on Monday, OUTA is now even more adamant that the decision to toll the Gauteng freeway upgrade (GFIP) was a poor decision taken by the authorities. “Since having access to the ETC contract, for which we had to sign a confidentiality agreement, our expert transport economist’s assessment of the numbers and efficiency of e-tolls has revealed that the plan suffers from oversights and is a most inefficient manner in which to fund the R17 billion freeway upgrade,” says Wayne Duvenage, Chairperson of OUTA. His views were backed up by the RMI.
“We expect the IMC to announce their e-toll plans sometime this weekend or next week, wherein we envisage they will further reduce the e-toll tariffs as well as the capped maximum charge, as they go on the charm offensive to woo the public into believing this is the best option. We also believe their announcement will include the acceptance of e-tolling by a few entities that were originally opposed to the plan.
OUTA firmly opposes the application of e-Tolling under the veil of ‘user pay’. Given the structure of our economy and the need to support those who lack many of the basic services, it is important that we apply the most cost efficient and effective funding methods.
The reality however is that you can’t be “half pregnant” on e-Tolls. You either e-toll or you don’t. A lesser amount of the wrong method doesn’t make it any more right.According to Clif Johnston of the SA National Consumer Union:
“The cost of collection and the bureaucratic burden it will place on society are independent of the actual amount charged per kilometre. Indeed, as the toll rate per km falls, the collection costs become an increasingly larger percentage of the amount collected”.
“This is the ultimate tragedy of the plan” says Johnson, “being that the road user will still have to foot the bill of more than R1,1bn per annum to cover the electronic toll collection process, regardless of how much they reduce the toll rate and cross subsidise the revenue required with fuel levies and / or the national fiscus mechanisms”.
Gary Ronald, Head of Public Affairs of the AA says:
“we are concerned about why the contracts still remain confidential. The public, who are ultimately expected to pay the fees, should be given full view of the entire contract. Until now, all we have seen are few tables from the authorities which vary substantially in the costs and projected revenues, casting serious doubt regarding the authenticity and accuracy of these figures”.
Duvenage continues, “The e-Toll plans are a most inequitable and inefficient ‘user pays’ process and the 8:1 Benefit to Cost ratio for users is a gross over exaggeration and has failed under expert examination. We continue to emphasise that, as per Government’s own documents, transfers from the fiscus and receipts from a fuel levy remain the most cost efficient way of raising funds. What’s more, these methods are included in government policy for revenue generation toward road infrastructure development. Adding to the injustice is a lack of the (planned) upgrading of public transport in Gauteng, which will eventually offer both road users and the general public a reliable, safe and efficient alternative to owing a private vehicle”.
Michael Tatalias, CEO of the SA Tourism Services Association (SATSA) says:
“forcing e-Tolling onto the citizens of SA is a gross injustice and implies that citizen’s intellect is being taken for granted by the authorities, that they are unable to detect when a planned revenue / tax collection system is a waste of their hard earned money and time. COSATU’s warnings to government were expected and reflects the strong disquiet within both Gauteng and nationally at the prospect of a national e-Tolling roll out. It is clear that Government should not err by discounting the extent of dissatisfaction with the GFIP e-Tolling plan”.
Ari Seiris, CEO of the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA), continues to be concerned for his members who were not consulted during the planning of e-Tolling and are largely unable to use alternative public transport due to its lack of accessibility, convenience and reliability. Whilst a solution is currently being sought for people with disabilities, the last proposed tariff structure and policy makes no accommodation for those without transport but who rely on the generosity of many private individuals to transport them around Gauteng, often using the network of highways.
OUTA has always said it is willing to pay for the GFIP and other national transport infrastructure projects which benefit the country as they are both much needed and long overdue but not via e-Tolling. OUTA remains confident that the November judicial review of the decision to implement e-Tolling will be a strong challenge against the unjust plan.
“SANRAL has previously said that the cost of tolling will never exceed the benefit. The reality is that the total cost of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement System over 20 years is not merely R17Bn but R127bn excluding VAT, and those are numbers provided by the Treasury itself,” says driving.co.za‘s Rob Handfield-Jones.
“Since SANRAL has never provided a transparent calculation of how it arrived at the benefit, there is no just reason for citizens to accept that any toll charged is fair value.
“Furthermore, the concept of “user pays” is flawed and inefficient. It creates massive additional government infrastructure in order to charge and accept payments and the problem is that one must ask where it ends? Imagine the massive bureaucracy and and inefficiency if every single service government provides to South African citizens had to be billed on the “user pays” system. It is an absurd system and the officials at Treasury apparently believe South African citizens are stupid and unable to perceive the kind of ineffiency that “user pays” leads to.
“It is time an investigation was done into the vast costs which have been incurred by spinning off entities such as SANRAL into private companies which suddenly behave as if they were in competitive private sector industries, building themselves massive plush head offices and claiming vast “market-related” salaries for their “executives”.
“SANRAL is a government department, no more, no less. It should be run as such, with efficiency and cost-effectiveness front of mind. I call on the media to start asking tough questions about a system which allows the creation (by legislated privatisation of departments of state) of such bloated, inefficient entities, of which the RTMC, ACSA, ATNS, CAA, SAWS and many others are also examples.”