RTIA refutes ‘impact of Aarto on municipality income’ claims

The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) says the implementation of the controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act system will result in an increase rather than a decrease in income for municipalities from traffic infringements.

This follows a Swellendam municipality report claiming that the implementation of Aarto will have significant financial implications and could result in municipal traffic services shutting down.

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In terms of the Aarto Act, 50% of traffic fine revenue will be diverted from municipalities to the RTIA when the act is implemented.

Read: Aarto implementation could result in municipal traffic services ‘shutting down’

The date on which the Aarto Amendment Act will be implemented nationally has not yet been gazetted by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga said in July last year that Aarto would be implemented nationally from 1 July 2024, but its implementation has reportedly been delayed by the need for the RTIA and Department of Transport to finalise certain issues.

Infringement notices

The Swellendam Local Municipality report further stated that for Aarto to function properly, the municipality must enter into an agreement with the SA Post Office for the issuing of notices to alleged infringers, which is a huge stumbling block “as we now know the Post Offices are closing down and they cannot guarantee sustainable delivery of mail”.

However, the RTIA stressed that the electronic service of infringement notices to motorists through emails and SMS is allowed by amendments to the Aarto Amendment Act.

RTIA spokesperson Monde Mkalipi told Moneyweb the value of issued infringement notices does not necessarily result in the same value being paid by infringers because of the various elective options available to them upon receipt of fines.

The infringer can:

  • Pay the penalty, as reduced by the discount contemplated in the Aarto Act, or make representations to RTIA in the case of a minor infringement;
  • Pay the penalty, as reduced, in the case of a major infringement;
  • Make arrangements with RTIA to pay the penalty in instalments in the prescribed manner;
  • Elect in the prescribed manner to be tried in court on a charge of having committed the alleged offence; or
  • Provide information, in the prescribed manner, to the satisfaction of the issuing authority that they were not the driver of the motor vehicle at the time of the alleged infringement, coupled with the name, identification and residential and postal address of the alleged driver or person in control of the vehicle.

Mkalipi said these elective options have always impacted revenue collection for municipalities and RTIA, and occur when infringers lodge a successful representation to RTIA related to minor infringements in terms of which they elect to be tried in court.

He said where an infringer elects to be tried in court, the municipalities must then issue summons to such infringers so that they can be tried in court, but in the absence of such summons, these infringement notices will collapse in the system because they cannot be served on infringers.

Mkalipi stressed that this shortcoming is not an Aarto problem but an entirely Criminal Procedure Act issue.

He said the RTIA realised infringers have, over time, realised that the municipalities do not usually have the capacity to issue these summons and always choose this elective option to be tried in court, knowing fully well that such fines will just collapse in the system because of non-issuance.

The RTIA therefore repealed that elective option in the Aarto Amendment Act.

“We believe that all the revenue which was previously lost because of this elective option will now be available to municipalities and the Agency [RTIA],” he said.

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Mkalipi added that the RTIA and municipalities lost a lot of revenue during the Aarto pilot, with successful representations resulting in notices not being served within the prescribed timelines provided in the Aarto supporting regulations.

He said the RTIA has mitigated this challenge through the introduction of the electronic service in the Aarto Amendment Act.

“This method will ensure the infringement is received well on time by infringers through emails and SMS,” he said.

“This will ultimately result in a massive turnaround in the revenue collection experience for both the municipalities and the Agency, particularly because the Agency has experienced an average of 70% successful representations because of the issue of service.”

Additional advantage

Mkalipi said the Aarto Act brings a further additional advantage to municipalities by virtue of the fact that the Aarto fines are not subject to the laws of prescription.

In addition, Mkalipi said further “potency” is provided to the collection of Aarto fines by Section 20(5) of the Aarto Principal Act, which allows the RTIA to block the issuance of driving licences, professional driving permits and licences until the errant infringers honour their obligations to pay the fines.

This mechanism will result in municipalities collecting all the revenue that is due, barring instances of successful representations, as opposed to the 5% to 12% revenue collection performance they are currently experiencing, he said.

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The RTIA also addressed claims in the Swellendam municipality report that there is no guarantee on payback timeframes for fines collected.

Mkalipi stressed that the RTIA has always paid the municipalities within 21 days of the receipt of all disbursable amounts to the municipalities throughout the period of the Aarto pilot.

He said municipalities receive all the fines that are paid within the 32-day discounted period, but where an infringer pays the fine after 32 days, they pay the full amount of the fine to the RTIA, which the municipality and the RTIA share in terms of a 50/50 split.

Infringement books and software

The Swellendam municipality report also complained that it will have to procure new infringement books to correspond with Aarto infringement notices, and new software and ICT equipment will have to be procured.

The report said it is still unclear if the RTIA will supply municipalities with speed cameras and handheld devices and when this will happen.

Mkalipi said municipalities are expected to purchase the new infringement books on Aarto, as was the case with the Criminal Procedure Act, and municipalities were all made aware of this requirement when the RTIA was conducting the Aarto readiness assessment.

“It is sad and unfair for municipalities to expect the RTIA to provide law enforcement equipment as if such municipalities have not been implementing law enforcement in the past,” he said.

Revenue collection

It is unclear how dependent municipalities are on traffic fine collections for income and how much is raised by municipalities from traffic fine collections.

The RTIA’s 2021/22 annual report, its latest, reveals that revenue from infringement fees declined by 32% to R178.23 million in 2022 from R260.25 million in 2021.

However, this reflects only the revenue of the municipalities that are part of the Aarto rollout pilot phase, including the Tshwane and Johannesburg metros since 2008.

RTIA registrar Matsemela Moloi attributed the reduction in revenue collected from infringement fees to the adverse ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy and delays in appointing back-office support service providers.

Read:


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Mkalipi did not respond to a Moneyweb question on the projected income from traffic fines once Aarto is rolled out nationally to all municipalities.

“More projections on the penalty fee collections will be concluded closer to the AARTO National Rollout,” he said.

“Such a process will require intensive consultation with the issuing authorities/municipalities.”

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has repeatedly said that valid and effective measures to improve traffic safety should be supported, but Aarto is bureaucratically clumsy and appears to be primarily a fundraising system that seems unlikely to contribute to road safety.

The Automobile Association (AA) has also pointed out that the Aarto legislation is cumbersome and impractical and is geared towards revenue collection and not promoting safer roads.

William Murphy

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