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Transport department guilty of ‘poor planning’ for Aarto act rollout: Outa

01 July 2021 - 19:20 By shonisani tshikalange
The Aarto phased rollout, intended to stem the carnage on SA’s roads, will take place over 12 months starting on July 1 2021.
The Aarto phased rollout, intended to stem the carnage on SA’s roads, will take place over 12 months starting on July 1 2021.
Image: Reuters

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has criticised government’s “lack of planning” for the rollout of the country’s new traffic offences act.

This after transport minister Fikile Mbalula on Thursday announced that the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act would not start in full on July 1, as originally stated, but would be rolled out nationally in a phased approach. The controversial licence demerit points system, which forms part of the new legislation, has been delayed by a further year.

Mbalula said the act will be introduced in four phases, culminating in the coming online of the Points Demerit System (PDS) on July 1 2022.

Outa said by time transport authorities were ready for the demerit system to have a start date gazetted, the organisation’s legal challenge against the law would be in court.

“It seems likely Outa’s legal challenge to the constitutionality of Aarto will be heard before the amended Aarto act comes into effect. Our challenge, filed in July 2020 in the Pretoria high court, is set down for hearing on October 18 2021.

 “After promises from minister Fikile Mbalula that the Aarto demerit system would start today [July 1 2021], it has been pushed to July 2022 as the authorities must still set up the infrastructure to run it,” said Outa.

The organisation said what was most extraordinary was the failure by Mbalula and his department to explain the demerit system was not going to start on July 1.

“Instead, we had to wait until the much-promised ‘start date’ today to hear instead about the administrative ‘rollout’ plans for the next year. This lack of planning seems particularly egregious given that in budget 2021 the department of transport gives the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) R224m this year for the ‘Aarto Rollout Programme’ - a big increase from last year’s R88m,” said the organisation.

Transport department spokesperson Ayanda Paine said the rollout had already started, but the department would not do everything at the same time.

“Some things are in the first phases, and the demerit system will only happen in phase four,” she said.

Mbalula said the reduction of the country into an economic standstill during the Covid-19 pandemic inevitably impacted on the revenue performance of the agency and its resultant incapability to implement the Aarto rollout because of its poor financial base.

According to Outa, the department was also unable to assess its own performance.

“The minister referred to the Aarto pilot projects in Johannesburg and Tshwane as ‘successfully operational,  though with some teething problems that were dealt with’.

“This is astonishing: has anyone noticed a reduction in traffic accidents and deaths in those areas in the last decade? Anyone?” said Outa.

Advocate Stefanie Fick, head of Outa’s accountability division, said the organisation is in favour of holding to account any motorist who disobeys traffic laws, but Aarto was not the answer.

“Government is unable to administer the process affectively,” said Fick.