Saturday, January 22

A court order could expose ‘excessive profits’ by Sanral’s long-distance toll concessionaire

The Organization Undo Fiscal Abuse (Outa) scored a significant victory in its long-standing attempts to get more transparency from the South African National Highway Agency (Sanral) about possible “excessive profits” that long-distance toll concessionaires are making. of Sanral.

This follows Judge J van der Schyff in North Gauteng Superior Court overruled Sanral and former Sanral CEO Skhumbuzo Macozomano’s refusal to Outa’s request for information through an Access Promotion Act. information (COUPLES) Application to Trans African Concessions (TRAC), one of Sanral’s long distance toll concessionaires.

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Van der Schyff ordered Sanral to provide Outa with the requested records within 15 days of delivering the order to the agency.

Sanral was also ordered to pay the costs of the lawsuit.

TRAC operates the toll concession on the N4 that runs from Pretoria to the border with Mozambique.

Additional court requests

Outa has also filed almost identical requests in the higher courts for information related to the N3 (N3TC) and Bakwena toll concession.

N3TC operates the toll concession on the N3 from Pretoria to Durban and Bakwena the concession on the N1 between Pretoria and Bela-Bela and the N4 from Pretoria to the border with Botswana.

Outa’s TRAC-related request was unopposed.

Advocate Stefanie Fick, executive director of Outa’s liability division, said Monday that Outa will likely deliver the warrant on Tuesday from Sanral (Nov. 16) and that the agency will have 15 days to provide the requested information.

“Sanral can delay this [through court processes] but they cannot appeal the sentence and the order because they did not oppose the request, “he said.

Attempts to obtain comment from Sanral and TRAC were unsuccessful.

Fick added that Outa delivered the PAIA request in Sanral because it has the information it wants, but N3TC and Bakwena disagreed and asked to intervene in those requests.

She said that N3TC and Bakwena were added as defendants in those two court requests, which have yet to be heard.

Sanral ‘obliged to protect the rights of third parties’

Sanral GM for Marketing and Communications, Vusi Mona, told Moneyweb in July 2020 that Sanral will defend the court request against N3TC.

Read: Outa takes Sanral to court

Mona said at the time that in terms of PAIA, Sanral is obligated to protect the rights of other parties, such as N3TC.

“In this case, mandatory protection is granted in terms of Section 36 of the EPAI to protect the commercial information of third parties. [N3TC].

“As Section 36 is a mandatory obligation imposed on Sanral to protect the business information of third parties, Sanral will have no choice but to defend such application in accordance with the law,” Mona said.

In an affidavit in support of Outa on the TRAC application, Fick emphasized that Outa is a civil action organization that aims to hold the government to account by challenging abuse of authority, challenging irrationality and legislation.

Fick said Outa also engaged with the community and authorities to solve problems related to administration and service delivery in all spheres of government.

The R7bn loan

Commenting on the factual background of the application, Fick said that Sanral received a loan of R7 billion from the Brics National Development Bank (NDB), to be repaid over a period of 15 years.

Fick said the purpose of the loan is unknown.

However, Fick said the purpose of the loan is reported to be both maintenance and road construction.

He said it was also reported that the credit line would be used for new projects related to existing tolls under the Sanral project plan.

Fick said Outa asked about the purpose of the loan, but Sanral declined to disclose the details of the terms.

He said all that Sanral revealed about the loan is that it is a sovereign loan and enjoys the best interest rates that the NDB offers.

“Outa is concerned that Sanral has obtained another R7 billion loan, borrowing from lenders,” Fick said.

“More debt will eventually negatively affect the country’s ailing economy and can lead to higher taxes and therefore negatively. [impact] the life of ordinary taxpayers.

“Given that the loan implies the use of public finances, Sanral, as a state body, has the obligation to be transparent with public finances.

“Outa wants to establish whether this loan was used to further finance the concession agreements,” he said.

Fick added that it is important to Outa and that it will be in the public’s best interest for Sanral to be transparent about the purposes of the loan.

Questions …

For example, Outa needs to know if the loan amounts were allocated to the concessionaire’s toll roads: N3TC, Bakwena and TRAC, he said.

Fick emphasized that these funds should not be allocated to concessionary toll roads because these toll roads are self-financing.

“To the best of Outa’s knowledge, the financing of the toll roads comes from the collection of tolls from these road networks and as such, Outa would like to establish whether the loan mentioned above goes to the GFIP [Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project] bonds (electronic toll roads) or other toll roads administered by Sanral that are supposed to be self-financing, ”he said.

Read: Sanral ‘cannot’ comment on R40m doubtful payments by electronic toll collection company

Fick added that regardless of whether the credit was assigned to a specific concessionaire, Outa intends to conduct an analysis of whether the financing generated by that concessionaire “exceeds the funds required to maintain the toll road.”

“Therefore, it is in the public interest that this information be disclosed.”

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