AARTO fix isn’t good enough
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) believes that the proposed changes to the AARTO law are impractical, irrational and legally flawed.
“If the AARTO Amendment Bill is passed in its present form, OUTA will legally challenge it as we want to see workable law,” says Rudie Heyneke, OUTA Portfolio Manager for Transport.
“OUTA firmly believes that motorists’ behaviour must be addressed to reduce fatal road accidents. However, our analysis of the amended Bill indicates that it is less about road safety and more about generating revenue through a complicated and administratively unworkable system,” says Heyneke.
“We are determined to get this Bill to work, so road safety can improve.
“We believe the NCOP will not pass the Bill as it stands, as they will have no option but to attend to the glaring problems with it.”
OUTA notes the concern that unpaid e-tolls may be used to prevent motorists renewing their driver’s licences, leading to people driving without licences.
“We’ve seen this movie before with the e-toll scheme, whereby Government believes that legislative changes are the panacea to their administrative problems and that people will simply fall into line,” says Heyneke.
“When Government behaves in this manner and runs roughshod over meaningful public engagement, or ignores input from the major role players, the scheme inevitably falls apart.”
The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill (the AARTO Amendment Bill) is currently under consideration by Parliament. The Bill was passed by the National Assembly in September 2017 and is currently going through the NCOP approval process.
These are some of the concerns which OUTA has with the Bill:
The Bill links e-toll defaulters to the traffic fines management system, by making failure to pay e-tolls a failure to obey the road signs which list the toll charges. This means that every unpaid e-toll charge may be regarded as a traffic infringement and result in a demerit point for each gantry pass. “Within days, a frequent user of the GFIP freeway will accumulate more than 12 demerit points and will have his licence suspended and ultimately cancelled, as it will not be possible to ‘work off’ that many demerit points. This is a cheap shot by the Legislature to bully motorists into paying e-tolls,” says Heyneke.
The Bill seeks to move the service of notifications of traffic infringements to electronic format, but this is not practical. “There may be millions of motorists who are not linked to the Internet or electronic services and the scheme will have to default to serving fines to physical addresses,” says Heyneke.
While some aspects of the Bill have removed the requirement to serve notifications by registered mail, all changes to a driver’s demerit points must still be served this way, which will be a huge expense, negating one of the key motivations for the amendment.
The administration of the Bill falls under the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA). The Bill grants the RTIA board and Minister of Transport the sole power to approve RTIA salaries and benefits, excluding any input from the Minister of Finance. “This creates an oversight shortfall and opens the door for financial irregularities and bloated bureaucracy,” says Heyneke.
There are questions about the RTIA’s financial sustainability, as its operational budget will be generated from a portion of the fines and administration fees it collects. This means that the RTIA requires motorists to generate infringements – and thus revenue – in order to survive, which contradicts the Bill’s purpose of enhancing road safety.
There are also a range of other problems with the Bill, including notice periods, fees, legal uncertainty over the Tribunal which must adjudicate thousands of representations and the conflicts arising from these, the cost of rehabilitating habitual offenders, and the removal of the current system of allowing motorists to contest fines at no expense to themselves.
OUTA has made a written submission to the NCOP and given input at recent NCOP public hearings and will continue to engage with the authorities on this Bill.
“We want this law to be workable, practical, unchallengeable and to meet the crucial objective of improving road safety,” says Heyneke.