Transport minister Joe Maswanganyi has told parliament (11:10) that there are no plans to scrap the widely rejected e-toll system in Gauteng – nor is there any intent to write of over R9.2 billion in debt which is reportedly already accrued by motorists not paying their bills.
Maswanganyi was addressing parliament following the publishing of Sanral’s annual report, where the group reported material impairments for tolling, which amounted to R3.75 billion in the year.
This was recognising the decrease in estimated future cash flows from trade and other receivables (ie, tolling), it said. A total of R3.61 billion – the bulk of the impairment – relates to the impairment of e-toll debtors directly.
While this was subsequently reported as ‘written off’, Sanral CFO Inge Mulder was quick to correct the misconceptions.
Mulder said that the R3.6 billion was an impairment – which is akin to an assessment. According to Mulder, this means that it’s up to management to assess the collectability of that outstanding amount, and the possible time it would take to collect it.
In effect, Sanral was saying that the R3.6 billion could still be collected – it just will not reflect on Sanral’s books for the 2016/17 financial year.
Whatever the group wants to call it, it does not remove the fact that e-tolling has been widely rejected, with Maswanganyi’s address revealing that Sanral was sitting with R9.2 billion in unpaid bills, with the amount growing by R230 million every month.
He said that Sanral will continue looking at impairing the outstanding amounts, but any decision to write it off or to scrap e-tolling altogether would have to come from cabinet. And at this stage, there is no intention to do either of those things, he said.
According to Maswanganyi, R65 million is collected in e-tolls every month, and there were 1.4 million road users who were tagged and paying.
The system was important to alleviate traffic on Gauteng roads, and to service the R48 billion debt attached to the project, he said.
Government was considering other ways of paying, he said.
According to Mulder, the public needed to be made aware that not paying e-tolls is a criminal offence, and the agency is waiting for a court ruling to show the public that the system is not going away.
Without elaborating too much, Mulder said that if things continue as they are – with motorists not paying – the viability of the project “is not good”.
“The project will not be able to repay its initial capital,” she said.
Mulder noted that the e-toll project is part of a whole toll portfolio, so one immediate effect from the current trend of non-payment is that Sanral cannot do other projects until it has resolved the e-toll situation.