E-toll clash heats up amid investor, ratings fears

E-toll owner Sanral was on Monday accused of blaming its financial woes and credit rating pressures on opponents of the controversial Gauteng road payment system.

“Sanral’s financial predicament is self-inflicted and they should stop blaming others for a mess which they created,” Wayne Duvenage, chairperson of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), said in a statement.

Sanral, which is promising to clamp down on non-payers, said e-toll collections of between R80m and R90m for February and March 2016 showed growth in the system.

Outa disagreed with Sanral’s calculations, saying payments “remained low and relatively steady, oscillating between a high of R82m and low of R59m over the seven months from July 2015 to January 2016”.

Duvenage said he expects Sanral’s e-toll compliance levels not to go beyond 30%, “which is a massive failure for any so-called user-pays scheme”.

Sanral said it is crucial payments increase to soothe fears expressed by rating agencies and investors.

Ahead of its meeting with Moody’s in May, Sanral started issuing summonses after an extensive period of communications with vehicle owners who neglected to pay outstanding debts.

“The global ratings agencies and the investment community are also looking towards Sanral and expect from us to demonstrate our commitment to financial responsibility and high standards of corporate governance,” Alex van Niekerk, Sanral’s project manager for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, said in a statement.

While there is one month left of Sanral’s 60% discount dispensation, less than R100m of the R5.9bn ringfenced debt has been collected, according to Outa. “(This) means around 1.5% of the dispensation discount offer has been heeded.”

“Outa doubts if Sanral’s wish for a last minute rush to take up their offer will transpire,” said Duvenage. “No doubt there will be a few takers, as can be expected, following massive a marketing campaign and more coercive tactics that will exude from Sanral’s PR engine throughout April.”

“Sanral cannot run roughshod over the public, with meaningless engagement programmes and excessive collection contracts for an ill-conceived scheme to service the debt of an overpriced freeway upgrade, and expect us the fall for their nonsense,” said Duvenage. – Fin24



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