The “rush” to enact a law that would ease Sanral’s debt collection woes is said to be behind the controversial extension of the road agency’s contract with the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) company.
Justice Project South Africa founder Howard Dembovsky, reacting to news that despite this being the last year of its five-year contract with Sanral, ETC would continue to manage e-tolling until at least December 2 next year, said recuperating e-toll debt was the main aim.
According to ETC, which released a statement to “clarify” the reports on the extension, the two parties signed an agreement last year as an addendum to the contract, allowing for an extension period of up to two years.
ETC said the settlement was approved by Treasury based on the fact that Sanral would not have spent the entire contract value by the end of the maximum two-year extension.
Dembovsky charged that Sanral planned to use the current Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Amendment Act currently tabled with the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to start prosecuting Gauteng e-tolling offenders as early as next year, should the Bill be signed into law.
The Act, according to Dembovsky, would allow Sanral to bypass court processes and issue electronic summonses for outstanding e-toll payments and related fines.
“The sad part of it is that I know what is behind all of this. The Aarto Bill is sitting with the NCOP at the moment and I have it on good authority that parliament is going to take a vote on it in January next year,” he said.
He added that Sanral was hoping to start collecting the escalating debt from errant motorists as soon as possible and reasoned that the end of the ETC contract would have been a great hindrance to the agency’s efforts to allay further financial woes.
The contract was originally awarded to the company in 2009 for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).
ETC CEO Coenie Vermaak said last week that the non-payment of motorists had resulted in the R22 billion originally invested in the GFIP ballooning to R40.5 billion due to interest on the debt.