E-toll fine quota 'misconstrued'

Read time 3min 50sec

The National Traffic Police Unit (NTPU) - set up to help enforce the Administrative Adjudication of Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act and e-tolling - has set daily fine quotas.

Media reports say officers have been told they must each issue 15 tickets a day in order to make the unit self-sustaining.

Transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele last year revealed the unit would operate at an estimated annual cost of R66 million. The total cost for training of the issuing authorities amounted to R554 780.

It allows the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), as Aarto manager, to be an issuing authority, because traffic officers attached to the unit can issue infringement notices.

About 280 traffic officers were appointed as part of the unit, to intervene in areas where local and provincial governments had failed, said the RTMC previously.

Revenue-hungry

If the officers in the unit carry out the fine quota instruction, more than R11 million a year could be generated.

Since neither e-tolling, nor Aarto, have materialised as yet, the unit is currently enforcing road safety by tackling issues like the use of mobile phones while driving and driving under the influence.

Justice Project SA national chairperson Howard Dembovsky says this is a sign of the revenue-driven nature of traffic enforcement in the country.

Misconstrued document

However, senior manager of National Enforcement Co-ordination at the RTMC, Ashref Ismail, says the quota is about the number of vehicles that must be stopped, not the amount of fines that must be given out.

“It has nothing to do with giving out fines.” He explains that the quota was given as part of the national rolling enforcement plan for road safety. “I am the author of that document and it has been misconstrued. It's not about fines.”

He claims that officers have simply been told to stop and check 15 vehicles in an eight-hour shift and not to issue 15 fines.

Cash cow

Democratic Alliance Gauteng transport spokesperson Neil Campbell says the allegations are of great concern.

“The new transport minister, Ben Martins, must provide answers.” Campbell adds that the primary concerns include motorists being seen as nothing more than cash cows for an authority with an inadequate budget.

“A similar attitude is evident from government regarding the e-tolls in Gauteng. There appears to be no concern whatsoever for road safety - merely for income generation.”

He also says the expectation by the treasury that the RTMC can operate on a budget of R86 million, when its salary bill alone is R121 million, shows that treasury itself expects traffic police to act as sources of revenue rather than as peace and safety officers.

Campbell has questioned the legality of the unit operating at all. “It is also not clear under whose guidance it falls. This also indicates that despite protestations by Sanral [SA National Roads Agency] to the contrary, the agency was ill-equipped to initiate open-road tolling and remains so to this day.

“Minister Martins must provide clarity on the creation of this unit, which is nothing but a relic of his predecessor's ill-advised attempts to deal with e-tolling.”

More officers

The Department of Transport (DOT) on 27 March gazetted the draft Sanral and National Roads Act, Regulations, 2012.

The draft regulations seek to introduce amendments to the current regulations in order to facilitate enforcement of the pending controversial e-tolling system in Gauteng, which was set to be rolled out on 30 April, but has been halted by a legal process against its implementation.

It says “authorised employees” can, while in a uniform approved by Sanral's CEO, require drivers to stop their vehicles, and question the driver of a vehicle about whether their tolls have been paid.

“Where such an employee reasonably suspects that there are outstanding tolls or other surcharges, fees, fines or penalties payable in respect of the Act in respect of any vehicle, he or she must inform the driver of the vehicle that he or she must not continue to use the toll road if he or she does not make arrangements to pay those tolls and other amounts,” says the draft legislation.

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