31 January 2012

E-toll documents released by SANRAL show failure to consult with public

Documents released by the South African National Roads Agency Ltd (SANRAL) to SAHA under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) evidence a failing to adequately consult with the public on the introduction of the Gauteng e-tolling system.

As momentum towards the introduction of the system continued to build late last year SAHA submitted a request for information relating to the e-tolling system under PAIA. In particular, SAHA requested documents relating to any public consultation undertaken in respect of the project and the identification of alternate routes for travelers.

In response SANRAL released the following documents to SAHA:
• Gauteng Improvement Freeway Project background and toll declaration process;
• Gauteng Improvement Freeway Project construction costs;
• Domestic Medium Term Note Programmes and the pricing supplements in respect of each programme

The documents reveal that while extensive consultation on the project was undertaken within government structures, consultation with the public was very limited.

According to the documentation, consultation at all levels of government (national, provincial and local) were conducted over a 2-year period from 2005 to 2007 prior to the national cabinet approving the project.

However, public consultation was limited to the opportunity to make representations over a one month period (mid-October 2007 to mid-November 2007) after notices of intent regarding the project were published in a variety of print media.

Given their failure to consult with the public prior to the commencement of the project, SANRAL can hardly be surprised at the opposition they have subsequently encountered. Their failure must serve as a warning to other government agencies to involve the public in decision making processes, one of the foundations of an effective democracy.

Equally concerning is the absence of any evidence in the documentation of the consideration of alternate routes for commuters. The documents demonstrate that considerable costs to the public were anticipated, including 43 cents for each R100 of disposable income for travelers in light vehicles and 15 cents for each R100 spent on consumer goods. It was also noted that low income users of public transport may encounter affordability issues. Despite this, there is no discussion of alternate routes for users unable to incur the additional costs within the documentation released.

If you would like to review the documents released by SANRAL, please contact SAHA.

Freedom of Information Programme Collection: AL2878_B01.18