Treasury intervenes in e-toll court application

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pretoria - National Treasury has filed papers to intervene in the application to interdict the collection of tolls on some Gauteng roads.

"The Minister of Finance has instructed the National Treasury to seek leave to join the case in view of the significance of this matter for the State's financing of road infrastructure and the integrity and sustainability of the public finances.

"Treasury's responsibilities in this regard derive from the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act," it said on Monday.

The implementation of the e-toll system on Gauteng's main highways is set to commence on 30 April.

Treasury filed the papers ahead of the North Gauteng High Court hearing tomorrow. This comes after the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, South African Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, the Quadpara Association of South Africa and South African National Consumer Union brought an application for an interdict.

The application is against the South African National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral), the Ministers of Transport and Water and Environmental Affairs; the Director-General of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs; Gauteng MEC of Roads and Transport, and the National Consumer Commission.

"There would be serious negative implications for future financing of roads and investment in public transport, were Sanral to be interdicted from implementing the toll collection system. Of concern also is the implication for Sanral's capacity to repay its debt, which is partially guaranteed by government," said Treasury.

It added that the integrity and sustainability of government's continued access to capital markets was a vital determinant of the country's ability to finance infrastructure required for economic growth, development as well as rising living standards.

"National Treasury therefore seeks to join the respondents to the application, and will argue that the interdict should be denied and the implementation of toll collection should be permitted to proceed, as has been decided by Cabinet and in keeping with the provisions of the Sanral Act."

In 2007 government, after extensive planning and consultation, decided to finance the construction and maintenance of an improved Gauteng freeway system through an electronic tolling system.

After considering public representations during 2011 regarding the level of tolls proposed, Cabinet agreed that a contribution of R5.75 billion should be made from the fiscus to the project.

The principal reason behind tolling certain roads is the need for major arterial routes to be constructed and maintained to help stimulate economic growth and development.

It said that the benefits to road users of improved safety, lower travel time and lower operating costs substantially exceed the proposed toll charges.