E-toll case a 'waste of money'

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Transport minister Ben Martins previously indicated he would bring the e-toll legislation to Parliament in the third term of 2012.
Transport minister Ben Martins previously indicated he would bring the e-toll legislation to Parliament in the third term of 2012.

Government has wasted taxpayers' money by opposing the interdict against e-tolling at the Constitutional Court.

Freedom Front Plus (FFP) parliamentary transport spokesperson Anton Alberts says this is because government has now decided to hold back the implementation anyway, so that it can carry out further consultations.

"Despite the government's victory in the appeals case, the government now decided to consult further. Although one should be grateful for the further consultation, one has to ask whether the government should not have done this properly before the court cases."

In addition, legislation enabling e-tolling still needs to make its way to Parliament, according to Democratic Alliance shadow transport minister Ian Ollis.

Final talks

In April, the North Gauteng High Court granted the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) an interdict against the implementation of e-tolling until a full judicial review has been carried out.

Government opposed this interdict and last month it was set aside by the Constitutional Court.

This meant the state could go ahead with the e-toll system while the main court case will still be heard in November.

However, government has now said it will, over the next few weeks, seek ways of reducing the "financial burden of social and economic services to the consumer", as it embarks on the final round of talks surrounding the e-toll system.

In August, OUTA said Sanral isn't ready to implement e-tolling. The criteria for exemptions promised to public transport vehicles have not yet been formalised, there are no e-toll enforcement procedures in place, and there are no finalised tariffs as yet, since the Department of Transport withdrew these on 31 May for further review. This means the interdict wasn't the only reason e-tolling couldn't go ahead.

Tax revolt

The FFP wants to meet with the inter-ministerial committee that's holding the discussions, according to Alberts.

He explains that the party will hand in a submission to the committee on alternative ways to finance the GFIP.

"A holistic solution should be sought and this also means that the government will have to meet its obligation to stop the growing tendency of corruption. The public is getting the impression that they can be milked willy-nilly while government is governing recklessly and spending money without thinking about where the income is coming from."

Alberts also says government needs to work effectively and responsibly with taxpayers' money.

"One gets the impression that this further consultation is being done merely for window-dressing and that the government will, in any case, steamroller the process."

The party's leader, Pieter Mulder, says the protest against the e-toll system was the first modern tax revolt in SA. "It was a message to the ANC that they cannot use our tax money as they deem fit."

Limiting implementation

Legislation required for the implementation of e-tolling has yet to reach Parliament.

Ollis says transport minister Ben Martins previously indicated he would bring this enabling legislation to Parliament in the third term of 2012.

"This term has now come and gone and no such legislation has been forthcoming. The legislation can now only be considered by Parliament in the fourth term this year, which begins mid-October. This may limit the implementation of the e-toll system or the prosecution of offenders once the system is implemented."

Hashing legislation

Ollis adds that Bills still requiring the attention of Parliament include The Transport Law and Related Matters Amendment Bill and The National Road Traffic Amendment Bill. In both cases, there is still a process of deliberations and amendments before the Bills can be approved.

He also questions the status of three sets of regulations relating to e-tolling that were gazetted by former transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele. These were put forward without complying with the legislative requirement that the draft be sent to Parliament for input before they are implemented, according to the shadow minister.

He explains that the National Road Traffic Act (Act 93 of 1996) as amended by Act 64 of 2008 requires that this be done since it states that, before the minister makes any regulation, the minister must cause a draft of the proposed regulations to be referred to Parliament for comment and, at the same time, to be published in the Gazette with a notice calling all interested persons to comment.

The regulations gazetted without the input of Parliament include the introduction of a special new traffic police force or "peace officers", the toll tariffs for the different categories of road users and classes of motor vehicles, and the Amendment of the National Road Traffic Regulations.

"The Department of Transport and National Treasury seem to be determined to push ahead with the implementation of e-tolls in Gauteng. While they are fighting the legal battles to overcome the enormous public opposition to this project, they are making a hash of the legislation required to implement and enforce it."

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