The Austrian company that has a stake in the consortium charged with collecting e-tolls on Gauteng’s roads is still optimistic that the project will go ahead.
In answers to questions sent by Moneyweb, André Laux, Kapsch TrafficCom executive board member, said that the company is optimistic about the project and does not have any concerns about payments at the moment.
“There is no reason to believe that any party will renege on the contract,” Laux said. Kapsch has not received all of the money for the contract yet, as the parties agreed on staggered payments, he indicated.
At the end of April, Judge Bill Prinsloo granted an interdict against the implementation of the e-tolling system. In the courts it emerged that the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) is losing approximately R225m in revenue every month that the system is not running. This revenue is needed to service the debt Sanral incurred to upgrade the roads through bonds as well as to pay Electronic Toll Collections (ETC), the company that won the R6.2bn tender to run the collection system for the tolls, in which Kapsch has a stake.
When Laux was asked if Kapsch has hedged some risk if the project is cancelled, he simply stated that the company has “built a state-of-the-art tolling system.
“We do not wish to speculate; we are a global company with a 120-year history in infrastructure solutions, and this is but one of our many projects around the globe,” he said.
Nazir Alli, the Sanral CEO who was at the helm when the project was conceived and implemented, has since resigned. Just before his resignation, he wrote to the Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, to launch an independent inquiry into the tender process, as speculation emerged about Kapsch and historic links to an arms deal company, Saab.
Alli indicated that he believed the tender processes were all above board but believed an inquiry would restore Sanral’s good name.
Laux reiterated to Moneyweb that Kapsch is in no way linked to the SAAB Gripen business.
“We firmly reject any speculation linking Kapsch TrafficCom and the arms deals. We believe this allegation is the result of a simple misinterpretation of information regarding one of our subsidiary companies. Kapsch bought Swedish Combitech, a daughter company of Saab, in 2000. Combitech was a specialist in e-tolling and traffic solutions and offered a perfect match to Kapsch’s young traffic business-line with a global distribution network,” he said.
Laux said that this specialisation in e-tolling and traffic solutions is why the Swedish subsidiary is involved in the project in South Africa.
Some of the former Combitech employees joined Kapsch when the unit was sold, but few of them remain, Laux indicated.
“As per any acquisition, a transfer of personnel does [sic] took place. That was more than ten years ago. Now only a couple of former Combitech people still work for Kapsch TrafficCom AB,” Laux said.
Kapsch TrafficCom AG in Austria owns 25% of ETC, TMT Services and Supplies (TMT) owns 35% and Kapsch TrafficCom AB in Sweden (previously the Combitech unit that was sold to Kapsch in 2000) holds the remaining 40% stake.
Apart from being part of the consortium that won the tender for the toll collection system, Kapsch TrafficCom AG also won the tender in 2010 for the 1.5m on-board units for the system, better known as e-tags.
Laux indicated that the contractual warranty for the tags is six years, although the lifetime is typically more than seven years.
He said that Kapsch does not know if another tender for new e-tags will be awarded should the system go ahead.