IN THE first three months of toll collection in Gauteng the South Africa National Roads Agency (Sanral) has collected only a third of the money it projected before the implementation of e-tolls in December.

Despite the R250m collected by Sanral in its first three months of operation being below projections, Sanral chief financial officer Inge Mulder said on Wednesday she was confident the cash generated by the programme would be sufficient to give investors confidence to begin buying Sanral bonds again on April 2.

Sanral has previously said it needs the programme to generate R250m-R300m a month to repay its debt. But Ms Mulder said R250m in three months was enough to reassure investors.

She added that Sanral expected rating agency Moody’s to review its downgrade in light of its proven e-toll collection.

Sanral’s debt had soared to R40bn, up from R6.2bn in 2007, largely as a result of the Gauteng freeway improvement project. This includes short-term loans Sanral was forced to obtain last year.

It will still use short-term loans to repay long-term debt that matures this year, Ms Mulder said.

Sanral’s revenue over the three months was R953m, although this represented the nominal value of transactions, excluding VAT. The agency had made no provision for bad debt, she said.

The agency had 1.2-million registered users, out of a possible 2.5-million vehicles detected by its gantries since tolling started, Ms Mulder added.

RMB analyst Elena Ilkova said the cash Sanral had collected from e-tolling was a positive for investors interested in purchasing Sanral bonds. But it was too early to determine if it was enough.

Analysing collection rates would be easier when Sanral releases its financial results for the year to March, Ms Ilkova said.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance’s John Clarke welcomed Sanral differentiation between cash receipts and revenue.

It proved, he said, that the alliance’s strategy of being a public watchdog was working.

The alliance has previously criticised the agency for releasing numbers about its collection that appeared to be contrived.

Mr Clarke said it would be worth nothing even if Sanral pursued civil claims against construction firms that colluded in the awarding of bids for the Gauteng freeway network.

Consumers should not have to pay for overcharging as a result of anticompetitive behaviour, he said.

Of the 1.2-million vehicles registered with Sanral, almost 1-million (78%) were users with an e-tag. The remaining 22% had opted to register using their vehicle licence plate number.

But Sanral CEO Nazir Alli said billing and other problems experienced lay largely with unregistered users. The majority of queries were about cloned number plates and vehicles without number plates.