Chris Hart, head economist at Investment Solutions, argues that e-tolling does not make financial sense, and asks whether we will see another ‘arms deal’ scenario. “The e-tolling system is compounding a mistake which has already been made,” said Hart.
Hart said that e-tolling is an incredibly inefficient way to collect road tax, highlighting that only around two-thirds of the money paid by motorists will go to road building and maintenance costs. The rest will go to collection of the fees, said Hart.
Hart also said that buying an e-tag comes with a draconian contract where the authorities will be intruding into your bank account which is simply not welcome.
Hart said that the burden of law enforcement surrounding toll fees, and the political fallout because of the system, further discounts e-tolling as an effective measure to pay for Gauteng’s roads.
“They are going to be chasing us for tolls while we are under siege from murderers, robbers and rapists,” said Hart.
“We should not have tolls anywhere in the country. The money should come out of the fuel levy which is far more effective and far more equitable,” said Hart.
Hart added that it is so perplexing that government continues to push e-tolling that it raises questions as to whether some people stand to gain personally from the system. “Is this like the arms deal? Is there somebody benefiting personally from this?” asked Hart.
SANRAL told MyBroadband that the tax collected from fuel sales is not dedicated to the maintenance or development of Transport infrastructure. Instead these funds go into the central fiscus with all other taxes collected in the country.
“Through this centralised funding process in 2009/10, R29 billion was allocated towards national, provincial and local roads infrastructure projects. This was possible despite the fact that only R22 billion was collected nationally through the fuel levy in that year.,” said SANRAL.
“Had a dedicated fuel tax been used for roads instead, there would have been a shortfall of R7 billion in the money available for roads infrastructure projects.”
On the question of wasting law enforcement resources on the collection of toll fees, SANRAL said that the enforcement of toll offences will decrease as toll compliance increases. “The Police and Metro Police will not be tasked with this functionality,” said SANRAL.
SANRAL said that they cannot comment on the political fallout associated with e-tolling, but did point out that some role players already indicated that they are opposed to such a higher fuel levy, “since it will affect all South Africans and is not perceived to be equitable”.
SANRAL also dismissed any suggestion that corruption may drive the e-tolling project.
“The evaluation of the revenue model for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, including the toll tariffs, was carried out by two independent auditing firms,” said SANRAL.
“During the firms’ consultations by the Ministerial Steering Committee, which were appointed to review the SANRAL financial model, found the inputs, formulae and outputs of the SANRAL Revenue Model to be sound. It also confirmed that SANRAL does not generate a profit through its toll portfolio,” SANRAL concluded.