Time to 'pull the plug' on e-tolls, Outa says after Sanral releases annual report
For all intents and purposes, e-tolls are dead.
This is the bold claim by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) following the release of the SA National Roads Agency's annual report. The organisation said anybody still paying e-tolls was simply keeping the scheme on life support.
Outa said that after years of reflecting outstanding e-toll collections as revenue which could still be collected, Sanral’s latest financial statement - for the period ending March 2019 - omitted any outstanding e-toll revenue.
“What was interesting in the past year was that Sanral did not reflect their e-toll revenue as being anything more than R688m, which is what they actually realised in cash from the scheme.
“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 was collectable,” Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said.
Duvenage's interpretation was that this meant Sanral had now given up on chasing unpaid e-toll debt, which was made more evident in its decision to halt the summoning of e-toll defaulters in March 2019.
Attempts to get comment from Sanral were unsuccessful on Tuesday.
Duvenage said e-tolls had been in place for five years and four months until March 2019 and during that period Sanral had invoiced the public for just over R27bn in e-toll fees.
Outa said most of these invoices were charged at ludicrously inflated “punitive tariffs”.
The organisation said public resistance forced Sanral to remove R17.3bn of the revenue charged as “unrecognised”, for fear of having to write off massive amounts as uncollectable revenue.
This meant that Sanral only reflected their e-toll revenue as being R9.8bn for the full five years and four months of e-tolling to March 2019. However, Sanral was only able to collect R4.5bn, well short of its desired target of about R16bn to date, had its e-toll scheme gone according to plan.
He said there was a recognition, in Sanral's 2019 financial statement by the board of an additional R3.96bn impairment of its 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.”
Duvenage said while transport minister Fikile Mbalula had yet to announce an alternative to the e-toll impasse, for all intents and purposes, the scheme was now dead and anybody still paying e-tolls was merely keeping the scheme on life support.
“It’s time to pull the plug. 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,” Duvenage said.