The current electronic toll payment compliance rate at the Gauteng Highway Improvement Project (GFIP) has further decreased and is now at 18%, its lowest level to date.
This was confirmed to Moneyweb this week by SA (Sanral) National Highway Agency spokesperson, Vusi Mona, who also confirmed that the agency has once again extended the operations contract awarded to Electronic Toll Collections (ETC) for the Open Road Tolling (ORT) system in the GFIP and Transaction Clearing House (TCH).
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Mona said the overall compliance rate was about 20% before the start of the Covid-19 crashes in March 2020.
“During the hard lock [Level 5 and 4], when the volumes of light vehicles in particular decreased, the compliance rate increased to 23%, which is indicative of a higher rate of compliance by heavy vehicles, whose volumes were practically unchanged, “he said.
Read: The government will finally eliminate electronic tolls at GFIP
“The current electronic toll payment compliance rate of 18% is the lowest rate [ever], ”He conceded.
Sanral previously confirmed that the compliance rate was 21.33% in February 2020 compared to 22.75% in February 2019.
The executive director of the organization Undo Tax Abuse (Outa), Wayne Duvenage, said that Outa does not believe that the compliance rate for electronic toll payment is 18%.
“We think it is closer to 15%, but it is neither here nor there. They are barely covering the cost of collection, “he said.
According to Mona, the ETC contract was extended for two more months. This was before the contract expired on December 2, 2021.
The ETC contract has been extended several times in recent years.
The contract has been extended again despite Sanral confirming to Moneyweb in December 2020 that extending the ETC contract for another year from December 2, 2020 would bring the contract to the maximum period of eight years.
Read: Sanral extends the electronic toll collection contract for one more year
“The ETC contract has been extended as of December 2, 2020 for one more year. This will take the contract to the maximum period of eight years, as was allowed in the original contract, or shorter if the new contractor is appointed before the end of the maximum period allowed, ”Sanral said at the time.
Mona denied this week that another ETC contract extension was not allowed in terms of the contract.
“The additional extension of the contract for an additional two months to allow the process of acquiring a new contractor to be concluded was possible within the value of the original approved contract,” he said.
He added that ETC will continue to administer this operations contract “until a new contractor is appointed.”
Mona said that the two-month extension is still within the value of the original approved contract and that sufficient funds are still available within the current contract.
“It is simply an extension of time to complete the procurement process,” he said.
The short-term extension of the ETC contract does not appear to be related to the uncertain future of electronic tolls in the GFIP, which Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula questioned late last month.
Mbalula said during a question and answer session during a briefing on the state of transport entities in Johannesburg on November 26: “When we went to Cabinet, a decision was made. When it was supposed to be implemented to eliminate electronic tolls, the Treasury said: ‘No, wait. You can not ‘”.
“We will be ready in February to make an announcement on this matter and how we are going to handle the electronic toll issue in South Africa.
“The Finance Minister will be in a position to make the announcement in the Budget speech in February,” Mbalula said.
The two-month extension of the ETC contract means that the contract extension will expire before the budget speech, which is delivered in mid to late February each year, and thus before the government’s final decision on the future of the electronic tolls in the GFIP.
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Responding to a question from Moneyweb about the status of the tender reissued by Sanral for the administration and collection of electronic tolls, Mona said that “consideration of the tender continues” and “is currently under relevant consideration.”
It follows from Mona’s response that the reissued bid has not yet been awarded.
Mona’s response to a question about why the reissued bid has taken so long to award and award was vague.
“The tender is currently receiving relevant attention from the relevant structures within the organization,” he said.
Sanral originally published the tender in August 2019, with a closing date of September 5, 2019.
But Sanral in March 2020 canceled the tender, which was in the process of being awarded, and indicated that it planned to reissue the tender.
Sanral said that at the time its board of directors’ decision to cancel the tender was based on a review of assurance documents from the agency’s internal audit and legal departments, along with expert advice provided by the committee’s independent advisor. of audit and risks of the board.
The agency reissued the tender on July 17, 2020, which had a closing date of September 16, 2020, but agreed not to award this tender until a High Court review of its decision to cancel the initial tender was completed. .
The request for review was submitted by Kusa Kokutsha, whose bid for the canceled tender was 4.5 billion rand cheaper than that of the second bidder.
Kusa Kokutsha was seeking to replace the decision to cancel the tender with an order ordering Sanral to award the tender to him.
The request for review was unsuccessful and Judge Johan van der Westhuizen dismissed Kusa Kokutsha’s request in December 2020, paving the way for Sanral to award and award the reissued tender.
Douglas Davey, who chaired the ETC board, previously confirmed that ETC did not bid for the tender because ETC is a special purpose vehicle and was established only to manage and operate the Gauteng toll system.
However, Davey said that Kusa Kokutsha, in which SA-based TMT Services and Supplies has a 44% stake and Kapsch TrafficCom AG a 5% stake, submitted a tender for the tender.
The original shareholders of ETC were TMT and Kapsch TrafficCom AG, based in Austria.
Duvenage described Sanral’s decision to extend the ETC contract again as “an ongoing sham” and questioned why it took Sanral so long to appoint a new contractor.
“Sure there was some litigation, but that’s what it was about a long time ago.
“I suppose it could have something to do with what the alternatives are to electronic tolls because this will have to be a reused transaction clearinghouse business and I think it is getting in the way of the finality of this debacle,” he said. said.
Duvenage said a new contractor will be aware of indications from cabinet ministers and others that electronic tolls “are a dead duck and a decision will be made.”
“What is actually being tendered is the management of a transaction clearinghouse for other purposes and not necessarily for the toll.
“So I’m very interested in finding out what the content of that is because I don’t think anyone is going to bid to increase staff and try to make money from toll charges,” he said.