E-toll decision to be announced in February budget – Mbalula
In a State of Transport Entities briefing on November 26, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula confirmed the likelihood of a decision on e-tolls being announced by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana when he delivers the Budget speech in February next year.
He mentioned that discussions regarding the e-toll matter and whether it would be scrapped were still ongoing in Cabinet.
The delay in this decision has been raised as a concern by the Auditor General (AG) in its yearly evaluation of the Department of Transport (DoT) and its 13 public entities, particularly highlighting the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and the Road Traffic Infringement Agency as impacted entities.
Mbalula explained that whether or not e-tolls were scrapped, it would have financial implications and those implications needed to be weighed up, particularly how government could generate revenue otherwise.
The department’s budget for the current financial year has been R66.7-billion, of which R65-billion constitutes transfers and subsidies to entities, to advance the implementation of the department’s mandate.
Moreover, Mbalula said the AG had also noted improvements across all other transport entities and stated that the DoT had been emphatic in its message of good governance.
The number of entities that have achieved clean audits has increased from four to five, while another five entities achieved “unqualified” audits. The balance of audits were still pending.
Notably, Mbalula said the AG had observed that the entities that were doing well to create stability and drive clean administration were the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency, South African Civil Aviation Authority, the Railway Safety Regulator, the Driving Licence Card Account and the Ports Regulator of South Africa.
Notwithstanding, irregular expenditure remains a source of concern, Mbalula noted. The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and Sanral, in particular, were culprits in this regard, the AG had found.
PRASA’s irregular expenditure amounts to R742-million in the current financial year, while Sanral and ACSA have incurred R175-million and R282-million in irregular expenditure, respectively.
In terms of wasteful expenditure, ACSA is the largest contributor to the tune of R75.9-million, followed by PRASA at R15.3-million and the Road Traffic Management Corporation at R7.5-million.
Mbalula acknowledged that strengthened capacity to deliver quality services to South Africans required the DoT and its entities to ensure professionals with requisite skills, qualifications and drive were recruited.
“The board has a responsibility to ensure that labour laws and internal policy are followed to the letter when dealing with incidents of employees.”
He mentioned that a number of key policy developments intended to enhance the department’s service delivery agenda were the Economic Regulation of Transport Bill, which was before Parliament. Its promulgation was expected to transform the face of the industry and make decisive interventions to level the playing field and allow for greater economic participation by small businesses.
The consolidation of economic regulation under a single institutional arrangement would ensure effectiveness, said Mbalula.
He explained that ports and airports regulation, for example, would be among those immediately affected by the promulgation of this Bill.