E-tolls show how government is at odds with itself – Outa

Outa - the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse - hold a protest against e-tolls on the N1 highway in Johannesburg, 26 October 2018.  Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Outa - the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse - hold a protest against e-tolls on the N1 highway in Johannesburg, 26 October 2018. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Wayne Duvenage says little can really be done now to save the system – it’s finished.

The department of transport yesterday stood behind Sanral’s announcement it would no longer be going after e-toll defaulters, despite Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s outburst on Thursday.

Asked about the future of the e-tolls, Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande’s spokesperson Ishmail Mnisi said the South African Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) was the department’s agency therefore the agency’s position was the department’s position but would not explain further.

Sanral’s decision to let e-tolls defaulters off the hook has been dismissed as ruling party electioneering.

“The e-tolls model is dead in the water and has been a circus and a crisis and an embarrassment for the government for far too long and should be scrapped for good,” said the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).

The organisation, which has waged a fervent civil society campaign against the contentious tolling system since its inception, warned the agency’s backtracking in its pursuit of defaulters would result in a massive drop in compliance levels, compounding its collection woes.

“The way we see it, e-tolls are dead. The compliance levels will drop and Sanral can barely cover the cost of collection. The scheme has failed and government needs to find an easy way to pay off the bonds and then pull the plug on e-tolls,” said Wayne Duvehage, Outa’s chief executive director.

He said the agency’s resolution and the subsequent warning by Mboweni exposed the lack of inter-departmental coordination, saying the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing.

According to Duvenage, Sanral would not have taken this drastic decision without Nzimande’s knowledge and the finance minister was taken aback because he was not involved in the decision, though it has fiscal consequences.

“(Mboweni) probably said ‘Hold on. This goes against finance plans and the arrangement we have.’ Remember, if they stop chasing the debt, they will have to be bailed out, but they did not involve (Mboweni) and that is why he raises concerns.

“The government departments are talking past each other on the matter. The government departments do not know what the other is doing,” he said.

– news @citizen.co.za

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