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E-toll debt mysteriously disappears, SANRAL responds

By Danielle van Wyk

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), formerly the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, released a statement yesterday reporting that millions worth of e-toll debt has appeared to have been written off. This is according to information from members of the public who contacted OUTA claiming that their outstanding e-toll balances have “disappeared.”

“It’s as if certain e-toll accounts are being written off at random by SANRAL’s (South African National Roads Agency Limited) collection agents, the Electronic Collection Company (ETC),” said OUTA.

Rob Hutchinson, communication director of OUTA, explained: “At first, we received a few messages from our members, who had sizable outstanding e-toll bills erased. These ranged between R20, 000 and R30, 000, whereby statements at the end of 2015 had been reduced to a few Rands. We then asked these members of the public to send us copies of their invoices which depicted these windfall reductions to their e-toll accounts. Sure enough, their sizable outstanding balances had mysteriously been wiped clean.”

How widespread is the debt clearance?

OUTA sent out a message to its members to establish how many were affected.

OUTA’s suspicions that this was a widespread glitch were confirmed when hundreds of Gauteng freeway users revealed that their accumulated e-toll bills had been reduced to a few hundred Rands from tens of thousands of Rands outstanding.
“When asked, these members confirmed that they had not taken up any offers of discount, nor had they paid one rand toward the-toll scheme since its inception,” clarified OUTA.

Wayne Duvenage, chairperson of OUTA, stated: “Judging by the hundreds of responses we received from our sample size, we estimate that several thousands of road users have received a collective credit of millions of Rands in e-toll debt, either deliberately or by accident. Either way, this depicts another problem and example of the schemes’ unworkability. One can imagine how furious those who have been diligently paying over the past two years must feel, when they hear the debt of defiant users has been eradicated without ever registering or paying toward the scheme.”

SARNAL and the ETC responds

Justmoney contacted SANRAL for comment on the outstanding balance changes.

“It is a common fact that the Deputy President announced the New Dispensation which not only reduced tariffs but allowed for a discount on any outstanding balances as at 1 September 2015. Any amount owing prior to this period was ring-fenced and a task force was set up to collect the discounted balances due. 

“All transactions post the end of August 2015 (1 September 2015) onwards formed part of different tariff and discount structure.  Road users that have subsequently received invoices and statements or enquired on the Violation Processing Centre website would only see balances due since 1 September 2015 and these amounts would exclude all prior outstanding balances that have been ring-fenced and are subject to a once off special 60% discount. To see if you qualify for this discount which will not appear on your latest toll invoice and statement please call 087 353 1490 or visit the website,” stated the ETC.

The ETC added: “Extensive marketing and out-bound call campaigns have been undertaken and the road users at large are aware that the opportunity to settle their balances at a discount is currently available. Speculation that the system has written off debt is disinformation spread by individuals and organisations who continue to clutch at spurious conjecture in order to avoid facing the fact that payment must be made. Those road users who believe that ongoing payments have not been credited correctly are also invited to make sure that all their accounts are settled.”

It added: “All road users should ensure that their accounts are settled and that all discounts are claimed. The 60% offered will not be extended beyond 1 May 2016 and therefore time is of the essence. Payment arrangements may be entered into by calling 087 353 1490 and as long as regular payments are made the discount offer will be offered. For those road users who elect not to settle and who remain delinquent, the discount will be forfeited and the full extent of the law will be brought to bear in order to recover the outstanding amount due.

“Non-payment of e-tolls is an offence. Public money will be collected and road users should be aware that a substantial saving on their accounts may be lost should they not settle what is due. This would be wasteful and road users are cautioned to check for themselves before believing misleading and misguided statements issued by ill-informed parties.”

A plot twist

OUTA added it was concerned about members who have been contacted for outstanding amounts that they believe have already been settled. In some instances these invoices state that thousands of Rands in e-tolls is outstanding, even when users claim they have no outstanding balances.

“In their attempts to handle these matters directly with SANRAL, they received no joy or satisfactory solution to their queries. It seems those who have been paying are being hurt the most,” said OUTA.

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