E-toll whistleblower compels OUTA’s new complaint with public protector
The allegations stem from experiences of a well-placed source inside the system, who confirms OUTA’s views of mismanagement stemming from SANRAL having embarked on an extremely high risk strategy to develop an electronic tolling infrastructure for the entire country, without testing key assumptions or engaging sufficiently with key stakeholders.
After six weeks of careful relationship building to create mutual trust and confidence, OUTA's consultant John Clarke mediated the complaint on behalf of the person. “OUTA contracted me to provide my ears to harassed, frightened, bemused and angry motorists caught in SANRAL’s web of manipulation, and lodge a collective complaint on their behalf with the Public Protector” Clarke explained. “Unexpectedly in the midst of the avalanche was a lengthy narrative from an insider who could no longer abide the injurious experience of working with ‘arrogant fools to drag me into their maelstrom’”. He described them as ‘arrogant and dangerous’ people who ‘steam-roll public opinion … bully politicians, and business people and do not act in the interests of the country’. After a gradual process of feeling each other out, the distance between us closed and we found a great deal of common cause and alignment of interests between the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) and a key stakeholder inside the system.”
Given the adversarial relationship between SANRAL and OUTA, after careful consideration it was decided that it would be in the best interests of all parties for the Public Protector, as an impartial body with powers of subpoena, to investigate the allegations.
Wayne Duvenage, chair of OUTA hailed the disclosures as a “breakthrough” which he hoped would start laying the table for meaningful multi-lateral engagement with all stakeholders to transcend the mess, as opposed to the past ineffective talk shops hosted by the Inter Ministerial Committee and other bodies over the past two years. Duvenage said that “despite legal and diologue attemts to have the authorities come to their senses on the rationality and workability of e-tolling, now that the system has commenced we have seen a multitude of problems unfold and the verdict of the court of public opinion, whereby the majority of the freeway users are not fitting e-tags nor prepared to foot the bill for a scheme that was never designed or implimented with the best interests of the people at its core. The system has been poorly planned with insufficient congisence given to the practical workability, public support and a host of very probable unintended consequences at the outset. The whistleblower has been in a position to confirm our suspicions. I have also communicated with the Minister of Transport as well as indicated our desire to brief the Parlimentary Portfolio Committee on Transport on our views and input on e-tolling, but given that there is an election underway, it would appear the climate and appetite for an intervention at this level is not right at this time, which is a pity, as the mess unfolding will just get worse.”
Fortunately the Public Protector has proved herself a fearless protector of constitutional rights and the rule of law, so we have decided to steer things her way. We don’t want to jeopardise the informants position or prejudice the investigative process or by saying too much at this stage. I can say that the complaint alleges abuse of power, dishonesty, maladministration and systemic problems in the risk assessment and management process within SANRAL, dating back to the tender process and commencement of contractual negotiations with Kapsch TrafficCom back in 2007/8.”