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Sanral strikes back: Scrapping Gauteng e-tolls not the solution

Feb 06 2017 17:44
Lameez Omarjee

Johannesburg – A probe into price-fixing allegations surrounding the local construction industry will not be opposed by the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral).

This is according to a statement issued by Sanral on Monday. The statement responded to claims by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) that the road agency had spent R10.8bn more than required for its roadworks project.

According to OUTA’s estimates, the R17.9bn Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) could have cost between R8bn and R9bn. OUTA claims that price-fixing contributed to these elevated costs.

OUTA chairperson Wayne Duvenage shared the civil body’s intention to write to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters and Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown to launch a commission of enquiry into the excessive costs and to take action against collusive construction industry players.

READ: Call for Sanral to probe construction firms for price-fixing

“Sanral has no objections to an independent enquiry into construction costs and would welcome the opportunity to participate and state its case,” the statement read.

Sanral indicated that such an enquiry should also investigate “the manipulation of figures” by critics of the GFIP project, the credentials and experience of “experts”, and the role of pressure groups to disseminate “alternative facts” to the media.

According to head of communications Vusi Mona, the agency is concerned that it has been targeted by OUTA.

“We remain concerned that OUTA’s focus on the construction collusion issue is solely focused on Sanral whilst the matter affected all organs of state. OUTA would achieve more if it had taken up the matter with all organs of state and the private sector. We are nonetheless encouraged by its stated intention to approach industry bodies,” he stated.

Mona added that Sanral instituted civil claims against companies found by the Competition Commission to have colluded and had abided by the settlement announced by government in October 2016.

“Also, Sanral reported the collusion matter to the police, as required by law. Therefore, OUTA’s claim that the agency has done nothing about this matter is patently false,” the statement read. “To its best knowledge, Sanral is the only government entity that has followed up this matter with both civil and criminal action.

“We remain of the view the tender process was sound and there was no corruption from Sanral’s side, the tender process had integrity. We were the victims of a crime and therefore reported the matter to the South African Police Service where a statement was made,” explained Mona.

This is in response to a call by OUTA for corrective action to be taken against implicated Sanral management. OUTA wants civil claims to be reopened against construction companies. Duvenage also questioned why oversight bodies in the industry had been “silent” over the collusion issue.

ALSO READ: Sanral overpaid close to R10bn on Gauteng freeway upgrade – Outa

Duvenage also said that Sanral had not been transparent with information regarding GFIP.

“OUTA alleges that they were not given access to the information they sought. The fact is that Sanral subscribes to PAIA [Promotion of Access to Information Act] and OUTA was, through a letter, given full access on 15 July 2016. It has to date not taken up this offer,” responded Mona.

Sanral in turn criticised OUTA’s call to have e-tolls scrapped. “This would mean that we would not able to meet our financial obligations and that we may be liquidated. This could affect all other infrastructure entities within government,” said Mona.

The agency said that it wanted its relationship with civil society organisations to be “less adversarial” and more focused on finding ways to deliver road infrastructure to South Africans.

This echoed Duvenage's views not to have Sanral shut down, but instead "operate with the best interests of the public".

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

gauteng  |  sanral  |  e-tolls  |  outa  |  construction  |  roads


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