OUTA position paper details no revival for e-tolls
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has produced a position paper outlining reasons for the e-toll scheme’s failure, as Government grapples with the future of the scheme but to date appears not to take civil society's input into account.
Government is currently deliberating on the future of the collapsed scheme, after Cabinet told the Ministers of Finance and Transport and the Gauteng Premier to come up with a solution before the end of August. OUTA has previously asked for a meeting on this issue with the Minister of Transport and the Presidency but received no response.
OUTA has now compiled its updated comprehensive 65-page position paper, “Getting beyond the e-toll impasse”, which reflects on many aspects that gave rise to the scheme’s failure and explains why its scrapping is long overdue.
“OUTA calls on the public and Government’s e-toll team to read this report, as we believe it will assist them in making the decision to pull the plug and work with society on the way forward,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s CEO.
“Long before the e-toll scheme was turned on in December 2013 it was doomed to fail, despite SANRAL and Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) having tried every trick in the book to coerce motorists to comply. We now have five years of empirical evidence that the Gauteng e-toll scheme is far from being fit for purpose and that the delay in Government’s decision to pull the plug is costing South Africa unnecessary expense.”
OUTA’s report says Gauteng’s disastrous e-toll scheme is a good case study being used by universities and schools on how government legitimacy was challenged due to its introduction of an overpriced project implemented without good research or meaningful public engagement, lacking in transparency and not introduced in the interests of society.
The Gauteng freeway upgrade, which should have cost a maximum of R10bn, started off as overpriced at R17.9bn and has now run up a debt of R47.6bn. The original overpricing had a direct effect on the decision to toll, with Gauteng motorists now expected to pick up the tab.
OUTA’s report lists funding alternatives, including the fuel levy and government grants.
In September 2014, OUTA submitted a comprehensive position paper – "Beyond the Impasse" – to Premier Makhura’s e-toll advisory panel, in the hope that sanity would prevail and the e-tolls would be ended following the first nine months of the scheme’s dismal performance.
OUTA’s updated position paper reflects on why and how the decision to introduce e-tolling as a mechanism to fund excessive bonds was grossly flawed.
The most obvious factors resulting in the scheme’s failure were the poor research conducted by SANRAL, combined with environmental factors such as South Africa’s poor vehicle administration systems, inadequate postal services, poor regulatory environment and public resistance.
OUTA’s report explains how SANRAL’s disastrous public engagement campaigns added fuel to the fire, combined with knowledge of the overpriced construction costs and excessive administration fees for ETC, the public’s frustration on rampant corruption and poor Government leadership. The paper includes examples of where and why e-tolling has failed around the world, and what circumstances are required in situations where it works.
Today, the Gauteng e-toll scheme limps along at around 20% compliance, falling well short of servicing the bonds, and has very little chance of revival.
A copy of the August 2019 report "Getting beyond the e-toll impasse" can be found here.