News24 Wire
2 minute read
21 Aug 2020
4:05 pm

Loss-making Gauteng e-tolls still give govt a headache

News24 Wire

'The quicker government makes a decision [on e-tolls], the better for the country and it will give certainty for the fiscus,' said Director General of Transport Alec Moemi.

Motorists drive through an e-toll gantry along the N1 near Bergbron, 7 September 2017. Picture: Michel Bega

This comes as the department re-prioritises billions to pay for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), also known as e-tolls.

Moemi presented the department’s revised annual performance plan at a virtual sitting of parliament’s Transport Committee on Friday.

The revised plan and budget cuts came after the tabling of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Special Adjustment Budget in June.

“The decision is not for this department; it is one for the Cabinet as a whole. We have been having a to-and-fro with the Treasury about this. We have been discussing different permutations, and at the last engagement we were already on scenario 13,” he said.

Moemi said government not paying some monies for the project would lead to bigger challenges in the future.

“If we do not take some money somewhere in the entire budget and pay for GFIP, we know what is going to happen. It will cause what is called a cross default and it will mean that all other investors will become jittery and they would all demand their money immediately. We don’t have R70 billion to pay immediately. We are better off paying R1 billion here and there, kicking up and hoping that we can kick the can down the road until a firm decision is made on what needs to be done,” he said.

In total, the department’s road transport programme has been reduced by an amount of R2.551 billion.

This decrease constitutes a baseline reduction from the South African National Roads Agency’s (Sanral) non-toll capital, “reprioritisation of funds to fund the GFIP and R309 million to cover for the Covid-19 revenue shortfall”.

The Provincial Road Maintenance Grant has also been reduced by R1.756 billion, while funds were reprioritised from savings in goods and services and the taxi recapitalisation programme to fund the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency and Road Traffic Infringement Agency.

“I am not the biggest fan of what is happening. I was the one who raised the alarm and said that we cannot continue taking money intended for provincial roads and other areas and subsidising GFIP. The quicker we find a solution the better. I still stand by what I said,” Moemi said.

In February, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said President Cyril Ramaphosa would announce a lasting decision “soon” on the e-tolls systems.

In 2018, Sanral collected R5.6 billion less than budgeted.

Moemi said a decision was needed urgently.

“The quicker government makes a decision, the better for the country and it will give certainty for the fiscus. [It will also help] Sanral to also come out of the morass it finds itself in with the credit downgrade and for it to be moved onto a path of sustainability again.

“Overall, Sanral is a well-run organisation, GFIP is actually throttling this well-run entity,” he said.

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