The Organisation for Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has disclosed allegations of corruption and bribery at Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), which it said was brought to its attention by a whistleblower.
ETC allegedly paid a South African company called ProAsh R10 million over a two-year period, starting three months after winning the e-toll collection contract.
According to OUTA there was no apparent return for these payments.
OUTA also revealed that Austrian business Kapsch TrafficCom, which owns ETC, allegedly laundered a $5.5-million bribe to Zambian officials through its South African bank account.
“ETC is majority-owned by Kapsch TrafficCom AG, which is based in Austria, and its subsidiaries Kapsch TrafficCom AB (based in Sweden), and TMT Services and Supplies (Pty) Ltd,” OUTA explained.
In September 2009, ETC was granted the contract to build, operate and maintain the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project open-road tolling system, commonly referred to as E-tolls.
“The operations part of the contract was switched on in December 2013 when the e-tolls went live, and is still running following various extensions to the five-year contract,” stated OUTA.
“We believe these allegations of corruption, bribery and maladministration were reported to the ETC board and executive management of Kapsch TrafficCom in both South Africa and Austria in mid-2019, but were apparently initially ignored,” it said.
“In addition, these allegations were also reported to the SAPS, the US Department of Justice and the Vienna Stock Exchange (where Kapsch is listed), with no feedback from the authorities.”
OUTA said that it was approached by a whistleblower in September 2020 who said that they had reported these matters to the authorities and was concerned about the lack of action.
The whistleblower approached OUTA to ensure these matters do not get swept under the carpet.
OUTA said it investigated and helped to compile an affidavit with all the available information and evidence.
“This was then submitted by hand to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in terms of Section 27 of the National Prosecuting Act,” OUTA said, explaining that this section of the law allows the reporting of information on specified offences directly to the NPA investigating director through an affidavit.
OUTA said it submitted this report to ETC in November 2020. ETC then appointed ENS Africa’s forensics department to investigate the allegations.
“OUTA has since met twice with the investigation team of ENS and requested follow up correspondence on these issues from ETC. However, ETC has made it clear that although OUTA reported the matter to it and provided evidence and input to the investigators, ETC is not obliged to share the investigation findings with OUTA or the public.”
To date, OUTA said it has not been informed of any findings in this serious matter.
“OUTA believes that the questionable payments by ETC to ProAsh and the indications that Kapsch paid a significant bribe to secure the Zambian contract raise questions about the awarding of the e-tolls build-operate-maintain contract which SANRAL awarded to ETC in 2009,” the organisation said.
“With the ongoing and mounting controversies related to the e-toll fiasco, OUTA eagerly awaits the announcement of Minister Mbalula on the future of e-tolls. Furthermore, OUTA believes that these latest revelations, along with others that OUTA has raised regarding the ETC tender and contract values as well as the inflated GFIP construction costs, warrant the introduction of an independent inquiry on the e-toll matter.”