Sanral to suspend collection of e-toll debt ‘with immediate effect’

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The Loerie e toll gantry that crosses the N12 toll road and the R24 that is classified a non toll road and its upkeep is not the responsibility of SANRAL although users will pay a toll fee. Photo: Neil McCartney

The South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (Sanral) has announced that it will “suspend the process of pursuing e-toll debt” with “immediate effect”.

“This includes historic debt and summonses applied for from 2015,” the agency confirmed.

Sanral’s decision reportedly followed a request from Ramaphosa to address the e-tolls payment impasse.

This follows attempts by the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) to approach the courts regarding roughly 1,400 default judgments against those who hadn’t paid their e-toll bills.

These judgments would result in blacklisting for those affected.

Shortly afterwards, however, the Credit Bureau Association released a statement confirming that six credit bureaus will be removing any blacklisting of those who obtained judgments in relation to their e-tolls accounts from the Sanral.

According to the statement, it has come to the attention of six credit bureaus “who hold judgment information relating to consumers” that “a number of civil court judgments obtained in relation to e-tolls/Sanral accounts were sent to the credit bureaus for loading onto consumers’ credit profiles”.

This means that the unpaid e-toll bills of those who obtained judgments will no longer reflect on their credit records.

In December last year, The Citizen reported that the “rush” to enact a law that would ease Sanral’s debt collection woes led to the controversial extension of the road agency’s contract with the ETC.

Justice Project South Africa founder Howard Dembovsky said recuperating e-toll debt was the main aim while reacting to news that despite this being the last year of its five-year contract with Sanral, ETC would continue to manage e-tolling until at least December 2 next year.

According to ETC, which released a statement to “clarify” the reports on the extension, the two parties signed an agreement last year as an addendum to the contract, allowing for an extension period of up to two years.

ETC said the settlement was approved by Treasury based on the fact that Sanral would not have spent the entire contract value by the end of the maximum two-year extension.

Before this, in October 2018, Sanral issued a “final warning” that it planned to drag every person who hasn’t paid their e-tolls to court, The South African reported.

The agency recently announced plans to divert R1.6 billion from its non-toll related funds to the toll road portfolio, in effect bailing out its own failed tolling system.

Sanral chairperson Roshan Morar urged Gauteng motorists to stop defaulting on e-toll payments, putting the total of outstanding debts at around R11 billion.

In the same month, it was announced that Sanral was among state-owned companies (SOCs) that had been given a lifeline in last year’s medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS).

Sanral was allocated R3 billion, an allocation was taken from the Passenger Rail Agency of SA’s capital budget.

Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Additional reporting, Simikiwe Hlatshaneni and Moneyweb’s Antoinette Slabbert / The Citizen