E-toll regulations under investigation

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The transport Parliamentary portfolio committee will investigate three sets of e-toll-related regulations.

Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow transport minister Ian Ollis says committee chairperson Ruth Bhengu has agreed to investigate the regulations that were gazetted by former transport minister, Sibusiso Ndebele.

The complaints around the gazetting were that they were forwarded without complying with the legislative requirement that a draft version must first be sent to Parliament for input. "The DA has been highlighting this contravention since April," says Ollis.

Comment first

The regulations, gazetted without Parliamentary input in terms of the National Road Traffic Act, included one for the introduction of a special new traffic police force or peace officers.

Ollis explains that, for this regulation, the notice stated that interested persons had only 20 days, instead of the 28 required by the Act, to make their thoughts on the matter known. The regulations were also never brought before Parliament for comment.

Similar contraventions were made when gazetting regulations for toll tariffs for the different categories of road users and classes of motor vehicles, as well as for the Amendment of the National Road Traffic Regulations.

"The DA welcomes the fact that proper parliamentary oversight over legislation and regulations is finally taking place," says Ollis. "Government cannot be allowed to slip through regulations guiding the implementation of the deeply unpopular e-tolls without appropriate oversight."

Bill tabled

Government last week said outstanding regulations for the e-toll system will be gazetted in the next few days.

Speaking at the launch of transport month that week, transport minister Ben Martins said government is committed to engaging all concerned stakeholders.

Several stakeholders pointed out that e-tolling is not ready to be rolled out since relevant legislation is still outstanding. This includes the exemptions promised to public transport vehicles and the amended tariffs.

Martins said these regulations will be subjected to extensive public consultations and published in the Government Gazette within the next few days. On Friday, the legislation was tabled at Parliament and proposed to be dealt with in terms of Section 75 of the Constitution as a Bill affecting the national level only.

Provincial word

DA chief whip Watty Watson says the Bill's proposed initiatives will, however, have vast financial and administrative implications for provinces.

"The very nature of this Bill is aimed at restructuring current legislation to allow, among other things, the implementation of tolling initiatives in various provinces, in particular Gauteng.

"It is therefore essential that provincial structures be afforded the opportunity to consider proposals that will ultimately directly impact on its functions and responsibilities."

Constitution undermined

Watson adds that the introduction of this Bill in terms of Section 75 of the Constitution undermines the right of provincial legislatures to provide their National Council of Provinces delegates with a voting mandate based on thorough deliberation and public participation.

He says the Bill should be classified in the appropriate form of a Section 76 Bill so that both Houses of Parliament have the opportunity to review its contents and conduct adequate public participation.

"It is critical that Parliament invoke an inclusive legislative process to enable all those potentially affected by the proposed 'e-toll legislation' to have their say, in line with Parliament's mandate."

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) is challenging the system in court due to, among other issues, the excessive operational costs involved. The full judicial review of the system will take place in November.

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