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Pushing ahead regardless of numerous red flags and widespread public resistance tends to leave most initiatives dead in the water. Just how long it takes depends on how bloody-minded the initiators are – or how willing they are to manage change. Take the apartheid government – or State Capture for example. It’s a lesson instructing the woeful tale of Gauteng e-tolls, where desperate mouth-to-mouth resuscitation has failed to revive the scheme in five years and four months. As the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse CEO, Wayne Duvenhage contends, the time-of-death of the ill-conceived project now only depends on when the remaining 20% of compliant motorists join the boycotting majority. He bases his assertions on unassailable numbers leading up to SANRAL’s choosing not to reflect e-toll income in their annual report at all this March. The accumulated e-toll losses are now running at R10.32bn, says Duvenage. How much does it have to hurt financially before government capitulates? Which raises the question in the wake of historic State Capture and corruption/dysfunction; are they listening sufficiently to a restive population? – Chris Bateman
SANRAL’s Annual Report depicts demise of e-Tolls
After years of reflecting outstanding e-toll collections as revenue that could still be collected, SANRAL’s latest financials – reflected in their annual report for the period ending March 2019 – have omitted to show any outstanding e-Toll revenue in their financial statement for the past financial year.
E-Tolls had been in place for five years and four months until March 2019 and during this period, SANRAL had invoiced the public for just over R27bn for e-tolls. Most of these invoices were charged at ludicrously inflated ‘punitive tariffs’. However the massive public resistance forced SANRAL to remove R17,3bn of the revenue charged as ‘unrecognised’, for fear of having to write off massive amounts as uncollectible revenue. This meant that SANRAL only reflected their e-toll revenue as being R9,8bn for the full five year and four months of e-tolling to March 2019. Yet in reality, SANRAL was only able to collect R4,5bn, well short of their desired target of around R16bn to date, had their e-Toll scheme gone according to plan.
“What was interesting in the past year, was that Sanral did not reflect their e-toll revenue as being anything more than the R688m, which is what they actually realised in cash from the scheme,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s CEO. “In prior years this was not the case and in the previous financial year ending March 2018, Sanral reflected their e-toll revenue as R1.87bn, yet they only collected R726m, signalling that the difference of R974m was collectable. This tells us that SANRAL have now given up on chasing unpaid e-toll debt, which is made more evident in their decision to halt the summonsing of e-toll defaulters in March 2019.”
Also evident in Sanral’s 2019 Financial Statements is a recognition by their Board of an additional R3.96bn impairment of their debtors. This takes their accumulated e-toll project losses to R10.32bn. Although Sanral reported a profit for the year of some R2.4bn, the additional debtors impairment resulted in a reduction in their balance sheet reserves and an effective loss for the year of nearly R1.43bn.
While the Minister of Transport has yet to announce an alternative to the e-toll impasse, for all intents and purposes the scheme is now dead and anybody still paying e-tolls is merely keeping the scheme on life support.
“It’s time to pull the plug,” says Duvenage. “If the last 20% of road users still paying e-tolls decided to stop doing so, Government will be forced to announce the end of e-tolls sooner rather than later.” This scheme has been the biggest waste of time and money that we have seen in a very long time. We trust that in future, government will heed the call for better public engagement and scrutiny before plunging headlong into a defunct scheme that they believe can be fixed by simply changing the regulations and laws that govern our country.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.