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Mounting debt, yet minister maintains e-tolls is working

2016-09-30 05:30

While Transport Minister Dipuo Peters insists that the e-toll system in Gauteng is working, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) says the scheme has failed.

In response to questions posed by DA MP Manny de Freitas on Tuesday, Peters was adamant that the system was not a failure and that the department of transport had every intention of collecting the tolls due from defaulting road users.

Here are some of the numbers the minister gave in her response:

» Of the 2.5 million registered vehicles on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project network in a month, 1.4 million were identified as registered e-tag account holders and 1.3 million were paying their tolls.

» There are more than 2.9 million outstanding e-toll accounts.

» 1.2 million owe less than R500 each as at the middle of August.

However, Outa was not convinced by the minister’s reply.

“For the minister to say ‘no money is lost because the amount of revenue which is not collected remains in debtors, and therefore still collectible from the debtor’ is tantamount to a gross oversimplification of the real world, when it comes to the scheme’s effectiveness and workability as a user-pays scheme to finance the freeway upgrade,” Outa said.

Chairperson of the organisation, Wayne Duvenage, told City Press: “Peters is so out of touch with reality. In any business if you’ve got mounting debt with a train that’s going the wrong way and you haven’t been able to collect the debt, you have to write it off.”

Duvenage said that the organisation was confident that the e-toll scheme was introduced unlawfully.

Sanral has sent out more than 6500 summonses to road users who had not paid up their e-toll accounts.

Duvenage reiterated the organisation’s stance on the fuel tax levy being the only viable way in which money could be collected in order to pay for road upgrades and maintenance. For every litre of petrol purchased, R2.85 goes towards the fuel tax levy.

This is how the fuel levy would have worked to pay for the road upgrades, according to Duvenage:

» The existing policy of the fuel levy is a user-based scheme. Every time you fill your car up you are contributing roughly about R120 to the fuel levy.

» That money amounts to R65 billion a year and Sanral gets about R12 billion a year from this fuel levy from Treasury to build roads.

» All Treasury had to do was in 2008, increase the fuel levy by nine cents and by 2017, which is next year, taken off the nine cents fuel levy because the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project capital expenditure would have already been paid for.

Three years later since the implementation of toll roads, Sanral is sitting with a debt of R8 billion.

Layton Beard of the Automobile Association shared Outa’s sentiments with regards to the fuel levy.

“The benefit of the fuel levy is that everyone contributes towards the upgrades and the money can be used for roads nationally, not just in Johannesburg,” Beard told City Press.

“Sanral was warned by us and they have messed it up. We told them that the scheme would fail and fail it has,” Duvenage said.

Attempts to reach Peters for comment were unsuccessful. The transport department had not responded at the time of publication.

November 10 2019