RABS Bill will result in 75% higher fuel levies - lawyer
"If objections are not tabled following the so-called 'public consultation' process currently taking place at obscure towns around the country until August 14‚ and the proposed Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS) bill goes ahead‚ we will see fuel levies rising by a staggering estimated 75% and reduced compensation being provided to road accident victims and their dependents‚" laywer Kirstie Haslam has said.
Haslam‚ who is a partner at DSC Attorneys‚ has been involved in parliamentary debate surrounding the proposed ‘no fault’ public insurance RABS bill that is now before parliament as a replacement for the current Road Accident Fund (RAF).
“Other than the dire affect the Bill will have on accident victims' claims‚ the failure to highlight the anticipated and unavoidable increase in the fuel levy to the public in order to meet the funding requirements for RABS is especially disturbing‚ considering the latest outcry about the price of fuel and the fuel levy itself‚” she said.
The lawyer said that during the parliamentary hearings‚ the Department of Transport has finally disclosed the single actuarial report on which it was relying to justify the affordability of RABS.
Affordability is one of the cornerstones of the reasoning behind its introduction. She said that numerous individual actuaries as well as the Actuarial Association of South Africa made presentations to the Portfolio Committee on Transport (PCT) recommending that the report should at a minimum be subjected to peer review‚ to test the reliability of the assumptions on which it relies. She said that this has not been done.
Haslam said that an analysis of the department’s own actuaries’ estimation of the implications on the fuel levy reveals that significant increases to the fuel levy are anticipated‚ bearing in mind that both RABS and RAF would have to run side-by-side for an estimated minimum of 8 to 10 years.
"Even on this conservative estimate‚ the fuel levy is set to increase by an initial 75% which‚ even after 10 years will taper to a still significant 1.5 times of what it currently is‚" said Haslam.
“This has not been explained to the public to date and may very well influence their attitude to the RABS Bill as it is being sold to them‚” she said.
“The focus should be on fixing the current system as opposed to implementing something which is unknown‚ costly and inequitable – it is going to cost significantly more and most claimants will receive significantly less. Also‚ it will be harder to claim.
“This is especially in the case of children who‚ by the department’s own admission‚ are amongst the worst effected by the Bill.
"Children comprise an estimated 33% of injured road accident victim claimants."
Haslam said that the Bill's processing has reached a critical stage.
“Once these isolated 'public consultations' have been completed‚ the Portfolio Committee on Transport is going to undertake a final review of the Bill and it is understood that there is an intention to push the Bill through within the current session of Parliament‚ this year‚ notwithstanding the wide-ranging objections which have been raised to it.”
She claims that to date‚ no civil rights organisations have been given the opportunity to give their input on the Bill.