South Africa 1.4.2014 01:50 pm

Outa claims proof of e-toll mismanagement

FILE PICTURE: E-toll objectors gather, 25 January 2014, at the Portuguese Hall in Joburg South, before taking part in a mass protest drive along the tolled highways. Picture: Michel Bega

FILE PICTURE: E-toll objectors gather, 25 January 2014, at the Portuguese Hall in Joburg South, before taking part in a mass protest drive along the tolled highways. Picture: Michel Bega

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) has once again pleaded with government to listen to “critics” against e-tolling, in light of new information provided by a whistle blower on the user payment system.

This, as Outa awaits feedback from the Public Protector’s office on a complaint it laid, following “damning” information it received from a source within the system.

City Press reported on Sunday that an employee of Austrian Company Kapsch – used to design the e-toll system – had warned the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) of the high risk in the implementation of a national roll-out.

He said the e-tolling system was designed to monitor 7 000 km of national roads, with tolls being planned for Durban and Cape Town, it reported.

The source further stated that there were design flaws within the system and Sanral’s control centre in Midrand had been created to monitor all roads in South Africa.

If the claims are true, it suggests that Sanral saw the Gauteng highway tolling project as either a starting point for national e-tolling, or it significantly over-invested in a system it did not need.

Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona, in rejecting the allegations by the “so-called informant”, said the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had not yet contacted the entity.

It would however “co-operate”, should her office conduct an investigation, he added.

Mona said Sanral and its concessionaires were in the process of installing the “electronic toll collection equipment” needed at conventional toll plazas across the country.

It would make the exact details as to which toll plazas and  when this payment method will be available, at an “opportune time”.

“Electronic toll collection – the use of e-tags – is a method of payment for one’s toll fees. Electronic toll collection does not replace existing toll plazas. It is a tool that toll plazas will use in addition to current methods of payment.

“By obtaining and e-tag and registering it, e-tolling allows an account holder to use the same e-tag and e-toll account to pay toll fees at any toll plaza equipped to accept e-tags.”

Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga, who was handling the complaint, according to Outa, was not immediately available for comment.

Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage told The Citizen that the alliance had always provided an open door for Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport and Government’s Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), which previously engaged with stakeholders against e-tolling, prior to its implementation.

It was important for government to learn from its critics, said Duvenage.

“… And they are not learning from their critics. We are happy to present to anybody.”

He described previous IMC engagements as being unfruitful with government unwilling to unpack and explore the rationality of arguments.

The insider has 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”, according to Outa.

Duvenage 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”.

“The whistle blower shows the sheer arrogance of the system.”

He further asked motorists not the “fall” for a system which was not working.

“The compliance levels are far too low. Don’t be hoodwinked by the propaganda. Now the chickens are coming out to roost.”

Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) chairperson Howard Dembovsky said it was only a matter of time until someone with a “paining conscious” came forward.

“This is a very good thing, we need more people to tell the truth behind what has happened and what is happening with the e-tolls,” said Dembovsky.

The JPSA is convinced that there is corruption behind the controversial system: “It will come out in the dirty washing, a system rolled out veiled in shrouds of secrecy is a dead giveaway.”

Dembovsky echoed Duvenage’s comments, indicating that further IMC engagements would be “a waste of time”.

“The last round of engagements was just Sanral telling people what was going to happen. Do not waste more time and our money,” he said.

“Take the money and lets have a referendum, this is after all a democracy and we have not held a single referendum on the matter,” said Dembovsky.

“Let’s do it, let’s show what democracy is all about,” he added.

 

 

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