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SANRAL push back

By Danielle van Wyk

The newly named, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), has continued to rock the boat as recent reports show that the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) was overpriced by a reported 321%. In a press conference held in Midrand on Wednesday, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) responded to these claims.

“SANRAL takes note of the latest allegation by OUTA that it was heavily overcharged for the construction of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. SANRAL confirms, again, that the legal and quantification process to determine the damages it suffered is well underway and progress has been made.

“As for the specific figures quoted by OUTA, SANRAL is not in a position to respond until we have seen and studied OUTA’s report with this supposed international ‘benchmark’,” stated SANRAL spokesperson, Vusi Mona.

Mona further stated that there is no international benchmark unit cost for road construction that SANRAL was aware of.

OUTA response

CEO of OUTA, Wayne Duvenhage responded by saying: “That might be true in the strictest sense of the interpretation, as we imagine there is no strict pricelist or benchmark for any industry on a world-wide basis.

“But, we do however maintain that there are a number of international benchmark case studies from which SANRAL can glean a good understanding of where they rank in the space of road construction costs, and if they did so, they will find that the prices they are paying for road construction in South Africa, if GFIP is anything to go by, is grossly overstated.”

SANRAL’s debt collection process

SANRAL, which has been in the hot seat lately for claims on the illegality of their debt collection sms campaign, among others, stated: “The collections process falls within all required legal parameters.”

When asked about the public’s response to the campaign to date, Mona said: “The reaction has been positive and currently the payment rate of regular users on the network is greater than 50%.

“Reaction is positive with five of Gauteng’s top 10 e-toll accounts with the largest outstanding debt, ranging between R5m and R26m each, agreeing to pay off their outstanding debt. Additionally we are seeing a strong wave of current compliant users demanding action against non-payers.”

SANRAL further commented on the bond selling initiative as a means to cover operational costs and debt repayment, saying it was going well.

“Our monthly bond auction in February went well. The investors we deal with on a regular basis are positive about the collection trends and fundamental support that SANRAL has from government, and this bodes well for our future auctions,”
remarked Inge Mulder, SANRAL’s CFO.

This, however, stands in contrast to the apparent stringent measures SANRALreportedly implemented on Wednesday that would see defaulting e-toll payers receiving court summons.

“It’s illegal to not pay your e-toll account and those who refuse to pay should receive court summons in the next two weeks,” warned Electronic Toll Company chief, Jamie Surkont.

Is the management of e-toll debt payment affordable? 

The grace period offered on all outstanding ‘historic’ debt incurred from 1 December 2013 to 21 August last year (2015), which motorists have until 1 May 2016 to benefit from the 60 percent discount on, remains.

Despite, this, however SANRAL deems the management and factoring in of e-toll debt a fairly feasible one. “The average monthly payment for road users on the ring-fenced less 60 [percent] historic monthly toll (historic debt) is less than R90 per month.”

SANRAL is on record saying “it will pursue civil action for the damages it suffered. It has a duty in law, which it understands perfectly well, to recover any monies lost to the state in the course of it (SANRAL) pursuing its mandate,” concluded Mona.

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