Gautrans rejects bus operators' claims as untrue
Allegations that the Gauteng Transport Department (Gautrans) owed commuter bus operators payments as far back as June 2007, were untrue, the department said on Thursday.
“Hence, the department strongly condemns any attempts aimed at causing uncertainty and divisions within the bus industry.”
This follows claims by the Southern African Bus Operators’ Association (SABOA) that it was owed about R300-million in outstanding subsidy payments for the period February to April 2008, with some operators also being owed money since June 2007.
As result of delays an estimated 2 500 buses may be withdrawn, affecting about 400 000 passengers per day.
Gautrans said it met Gauteng bus operators on January 30 to explain the delay of subsidy payment as outlined in the letter from the national department.
“The letter in question made reference to February/March 2008 subsidy claims and the introduction of new financial codes and allocations by National Treasury, due for implementation on the 1st April 2008.”
It said the current delay in payment was as a result of structural problems by Gauteng Shared Services Centre (GSSC).
The department had however received an undertaking from GSSC that payment would be processed as a matter of urgency until the system was properly structured and functional in terms of future payments.
On Wednesday, SABOA said it would seek an urgent interdict against Gautrans to make the payments to them with immediate effect.
SABOA said the interdict against Gautrans was in terms of its contractual obligations, and that it would also interdict provincial transport minister Ignatius Jacobs and provincial finance minister Paul Mashatile.
The association said operators were having “serious cash flow” problems and would have difficulty in continuing operations beyond May 16.
“One operator has already discontinued its services and some may not be able to operate beyond Friday May 9,” SABOA said.
It also resolved to, as a matter of urgency, contact national Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe to inform him of these developments.
Trade union Solidarity has also condemned the province’s delay, saying about 2 000 employees of bus companies North West Star (NWS) and the Atteridgeville Bus Service (ABS) may be threatened.
“The non-payment of the subsidies means that NWS and ABS are faced with a financial crisis,” said spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans.
He said NWS had sent a letter to the union saying that the non-payment seriously affected the company’s cash flow and it could only pay workers’ wages for this week.
“From next week we shall be unable to pay wages or salaries and we will have no choice but to suspend our bus services,” the letter said.
Kleynhans said Gautrans already owed more than R115,7-million. - Sapa