Sanral sows confusion around e-tag sales

Bonnie Tubbs
By Bonnie Tubbs, ITWeb telecoms editor.
Johannesburg, 01 Jul 2013
Opposition to tolling group Outa questions Sanral's maths.
Opposition to tolling group Outa questions Sanral's maths.

As government gears up to implement its controversial e-toll system across Gauteng, it seems e-tag sales have reached a deadlock, but SA's roads agency is either unaware of - or unwilling to provide - accurate sales figures.

The SA National Roads Agency's (Sanral's) recently-stepped-up marketing campaign has highlighted the agency's eagerness to get motorists "tagged" ahead of what it has indicated will be a July launch for e-tolls.

According to Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona, the agency's campaign - which made use of various media platforms including radio, print and television - was a resounding success. Last month (around mid-June), Mona told ITWeb that e-tag sales had risen considerably. "At the end of April [2012], we had sales of 250 000 e-tags. This has increased by more than 100% in the last six weeks to 600 000."

Unreliable numbers

However, Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) chairperson Wayne Duvenage points out the e-tag sales figures Sanral has been touting do not add up.

"I have a feeling Sanral has exposed itself on the number of tags sold."

Duvenage says there is a huge question mark hanging over Sanral's publicised e-tag sales figures. He says "lies are starting to come to the fore" as the roads agency clings on to the round figure of 600 000 - despite claims of rising e-tag sales.

"In April last year, just before the interdict, Sbu Ndeble [former transport minister] was talking the number of tag sales up, and said Sanral had issued or sold 501 000 e-tags. This figure was repeated on a few occasions toward the end of 2012 and earlier this year.

"Now Mona says [Sanral] sold 250 000 tags by the end of April, and that in [not even] six weeks (ie, May and half of June), they have sold another 350 000 tags, taking them up to 600 000 tags sold - but 600 000 has been a number for the past few months now."

Duvenage is also dubious about the low number of submissions (850) Sanral says it received in the 30-day public comment period given after government's latest e-toll regulations and notices. The final day for written comment was last week Monday.

At the end of last year, after transport minister Ben Martins announced and gazetted new e-toll tariffs and regulations, government said 11 000 submissions had been received at the close of the 30-day comment period.

In response to the disparity, Mona says Sanral is "unable to speculate" on the reason for this. He said, however, that the total of 850 did not take into account submissions received after 5pm last week (24 June).

"Eight-hundred and fifty is the approximate number from submissions made both to Sanral and the Department of Transport [by] 5pm on Monday. We are unable to speculate as to the reason for the lower number, as the fact that the regulations and notices were gazetted for input was made public and extensively reported on by the media."

Despite the questions and confusion surrounding Sanral's maths, the agency is sticking to its 600 000 figure.

Mona says e-tags registered to individual users and what Sanral refers to as key accounts "is above 600 000".

Key accounts, he says, include vehicles managed by fleet/vehicle management services (including fleet banks), car rental companies, corporate and government fleets.

While Mona could not offer details on how the figure of 600 000 is broken down "in order to protect the privacy of [Sanral's] clients", he says the split between fleets and individual users is 40% to 60% respectively.

This means, to date, the majority of e-tags (350 000) are registered to individual motorists, with groups and businesses accounting for the lesser part of 250 000.