There is little more than a month to go before the current 60% reduction offer on historic e-toll debt expires.
This once-off discount applies to all unpaid e-tolls levied on the inner-Gauteng highways, in South Africa, since it was implemented on 3 December 2013 and 31 August 2015.
The response to the discount offer has so far been encouraging, as has the steadily increasing number of road users who are paying their e-toll accounts, says Vusi Mona, SANRAL Spokesperson.
Mona warns that no extension will be granted and urged motorists to pay sooner rather than later as there might be a rush at the end of April which could see some willing payers lose out on the offer.
The success of the 60% discount can only reasonably be gauged after the discount period ends, as many are waiting until the last minute to take up the offer.
In addition, some payments will come in after the deadline because of the payment arrangements some motorists are entering into in order to clear their records.
Some people and businesses have indicated that they are delaying payment for as long as possible in order for them to earn interest on the money.
“Making definitive statements about the success or failure of the project at this time would be like wishing on a star – it may make you feel better, but it ultimately means nothing.”
“Road users are currently paying ZAR80 million to ZAR90 million in e-toll revenue per month, up from the ZAR60 million we were receiving around August or September 2015. Though this is lower than earlier projections, we are encouraged by the upward trend. Slow and steady wins the race,” says Mona.
He says less than 20% of defaulting road users contacted for collection flatly refuse to pay, and an increasing number are making use of the 60% discount offer.
The agency is encouraged by this as rating agencies and investors are concerned about a culture of non-payment. SANRAL, like other parastatals and government agencies and departments, must demonstrate their commitment to collect outstanding debt as required in terms of the law.
“Although everyone, including those opposed to the system and non-payers, has express concern about the impact of a downgrade of the sovereign and individual credit ratings, they fail to see the direct role their actions have on ratings.”
Moody’s have been clear about this, having clearly stated that a downgrade in SANRAL’s ratings could happen because – an inability to effectively enforce e-toll payments, leading to deteriorating cash flows and increased borrowing needs, would apply downward rating pressure.
“This is the very reason why we are now summonsing those who owe e-tolls. It is distressing and need not have happened. The perception that e-tolls are prohibitively expensive is not based on fact. Government has addressed the issue of affordability by reducing the monthly caps and offering a 60% discount on the historic debt.”
“If you are registered, you do not have to have a tag, your monthly fees are capped at ZAR236 – this is for light motor vehicle. Our research has shown that 78% of light motor vehicles will pay less than ZAR100 a month with 44% of those paying less than ZAR25 a month. It is only if you are not tagged or registered, and you don’t pay within 30 days of going under the gantry, that the costs increase,” concludes Mona.