Parliament - The embattled SA National Roads Agency (Sanral)
can scrape by for the next six months in the absence of Gauteng freeway
toll revenue, MPs heard on Tuesday.
"It is very important to understand that in the
immediate term, anything up to six months, Sanral will exist and by
scraping and removing resources that were intended for other purposes,
and using them to make sure it meets its immediate financial
obligations, that is going to be okay," finance director general Lungisa
"But, only through major sacrifices and only for a very limited short time, as I've indicated, about six or seven months.
"Beyond that, the situation has got to be cleared,
which is why the Cabinet process has been set in place with the idea to
run very fast to reach the end of this thing parallel to the court
Fuzile was briefing Parliament's standing committee on finance.
Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene declined to be
drawn on whether a solution would entail a second, extraordinary
allocation from National Treasury to Sanral.
"Let's cross that bridge when we come to it," he said.
In his annual budget, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan
gave Sanral a R5.7 billion windfall to help the agency service the debt
on the R20bn Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project and bring down
However, Sanral's stability was dealt a blow on April
28 when High Court in Pretoria granted an interdict to suspend
implementation of the project, pending a final review.
There were more jitters last week when it emerged that
only half of the R15.7bn worth of its bonds bought by the Government
Employees Pension Fund were government guaranteed.
Fuzile stressed that the government was committed to
stepping in if Sanral failed to make payments, regardless of whether
there was a formal guarantee.
"Sanral is very different from other institutions.
Sanral has always had a strongly implicit guarantee. Essentially, the
legislation that establishes Sanral is written in such a way that Sanral
cannot be liquidated.
"In other words, when Sanral reaches a point where it
cannot meet its financial obligations, government will have to step in,
regardless of whether there is an explicit guarantee or not.
"The government can never walk away from Sanral's liabilities."
He said that by underwriting the bonds, the government
had limited the debt costs and had hoped to pass this saving on to
motorists in the form of lower tolls.
"With the guarantee, we wanted to make sure that the benefits of the guarantee will lower debt costs on the users of the roads.
"Prior to guarantee, Sanral would raise money at about
1.2 percentage points above the interest rate... but with the guarantee,
Sanral has been able to raise money at amounts reduced by 0.6 to 0.7
percent in interest." Fuzile was cut short by committee chairman
Themba Mufamadi who implored him not to make pronouncements on Sanral
until a Cabinet committee appointed on Friday tackled the problem.
"Cabinet is seized with it.... Once the process has
been done, properly co-ordinated and there are responses that we can
share with everybody else, National Treasury can come back... and that
will be the right moment to deal with the issue."
Opposition MPs objected strongly to Mufamadi's decision.
The Cabinet committee, headed by Deputy President
Kgalema Motlanthe, has to co-ordinate all work around the freeway
project and safeguard Sanral's financial stability.