On the Cover

eNatis sideswipes traffic law enforcement

Adevil-may-care attitude among South African motorists is the least of law enforcement officials’ problems. Rather, the powers-that-be should be looking at the intrinsic source of information that they use to hunt down traffic offenders.The electronic National Traffic Information System (eNatis) database is the source of core information for all traffic law enforcement agencies across the country. Yet, the pollution within this database has been cited as one of the reasons why the Administrative Adjudication of Road Offences (Aarto) Act has been such a failure; with an abysmal collection rate for fi nes in the pilot cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane of under 5%.

While no empirical evidence has been published showing the extent to which eNatis has dirty information, at least two commentators say it is polluted. But the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), tasked with implementing Aarto, says there is no evidence of pollution.

This statement came, ironically, after it accused motorists of being apathetic when it comes to either providing their details in the first place, or of not bothering to update their information.

The problem with eNatis is expected to spill over to collecting in Gauteng, when the South African National Roads Agency () finally gets the go-ahead after president " rel=tag>Jacob Zuma signs the so-called e-toll Bill, or the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill.


Recently, the (DA) – the official opposition as SA runs up to elections in May next year – released documents leaked from within the department showing that the pilot traffic infringement project has been shown to be a failure and is in a state of terminal collapse.

The reports on the Aarto pilot show low levels of payment by law-breakers and failure by the enforcement agency to follow the law. They also call for doubling the fines to alleviate the financial congestion.

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Howard Dembovsky, JPSA" />“If the current obstacles experienced with Tshwane, the City of Johannesburg, the RTIA and the RTMC [Road Traffic Management Corporation] are an indication of how the rollout will take place, the national rollout is doomed to failure before it has started,” says one of the reports. It says the national deployment plan is dependent on several issues being resolved, including the sending of enforcement and courtesy letters.

Mmusi Maimane, the DA’s national spokesperson, said in a statement that the documents show neither Johannesburg nor Tshwane are ready to fully implement Aarto, and the payment rate on infringement notices has dropped below 5%. “Traffic law enforcement on roads in our big cities in Gauteng is on the brink of collapse.”

Aarto has been in the pipeline for several years and has been running pilot projects in Johannesburg and Tshwane. These projects were “completed” on 1 April 2010, according to the leaked status report.

The department has yet to finalise a national rollout date, but the 26 July status update says this must be done soon. The DA’s shadow minister of transport has said any national deployment will be a failure.

The status report says: “Due to a lack of practical knowledge of the implementation process, it is evident that the role-players do not have full insight into the practical implementation and are short-sightedly looking at hardware issues only. It is, therefore, clear that the role-players are not really in a state of readiness to implement Aarto.”


However, the RTIA says the DA’s pronouncements are misleading as they exaggerate the challenges being experienced in the process of rolling out the Aarto. In addition, says the RTIA, the DA’s statement also “fails to fully capture the processes” the RTIA and the municipalities have put in place to address and enhance effi ciencies in Aarto.

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Ian Ollis, DA shadow minister of transport" />“For the record, the implementation of the Aarto in the municipalities of Tshwane and Johannesburg was a strategic decision aimed at piloting it with the specific intention of identifying loopholes and challenges and be able to put the necessary interventions in place prior to national rollout.”

Among the challenges, its rebuttal statement cites, are that financial constraints are “exacerbated by the issues related to the address database of drivers caused by either the failure by motorists to update their address as required by law or incorrect addresses provided by the motorists”

However, Justice Project SA (JPSA) chairman, , points out that in June last year, draft regulations proposed a fix to the problem, which was never implemented. The gazetted changes mooted that address particulars be verified on the system.

Dembovsky has said the biggest problem is that the data provided via municipalities is often not updated, such as when road users renew vehicle licences and fill in the change of address form, which the municipalities do not capture.

In addition, people who pay their licence fees at the post office cannot change addresses, as the post office has no access to the system to do this function, noted Dembovsky. The pollution of the eNatis registry will play a large role in defeating any attempts to enforce any road traffic laws, he said.

As none of the draft regulations have been given as much attention as the e-toll Bill and regulations, authorities will keep on sending notices to badly out-of-date address particulars, said Dembovsky.

“We can write as many laws as we wish, but until those who enforce them are prepared to toe the line and do what they are mandated to do, they are wasting their time and only the unfortunate few whose details are in fact correct on eNatis will be affected.”

RTIA says legislative changes have been proposed to address the financial aspects challenging Aarto. Among these, is a criticised plan to use e-mail to send out infringement notices.

Currently, it costs R27.5 million to send out courtesy letters and enforcement orders to law breakers in the two regions where Aarto is being piloted; Tshwane and Johannesburg. Should Aarto be rolled out nationwide, this cost will leap to R65.3 million. However, the agency’s budget per year is only R25 million.

Later, in response to specifi c questions, the RTIA said non-payment of traffic fines amongst traffic infringers is not new.

“National payment rates for traffic fines over the past 20 years fluctuated between 10% up to about 40% at times. The root cause for the ultra-low payment rates is the culture amongst road traffic infringers of ‘not paying’.”

It says this tendency was carried over to Aarto, although the law does allow for recovery of all outstanding fines. In terms of Aarto, a courtesy letter is sent 32 days after the first fine notice was served, which is then followed by an enforcement order.

The report proposes solutions such as funding RTIA from the fiscus, so that it can start sending courtesy letters and enforcement orders at a cost of R40 million a month to clear the backlog. It also says eNatis must “block transactions” to force offenders to pay up.

The status report also calls for “increasing the penalty unit value from the current R50 to R100”, which would increase the average value of infringements from R500 to R1 000.

“As far as the RTIA is aware, the minister has not made any policy determination regarding the increment and/or doubling of traffic fines. As indicated, the RTIA is not responsible for policy matters, but implementation,” the agency has said.

The status report says the proposed amendment could be sorted out in a short space of time and gazetted for implementation. “This will result in a higher income for the issuing authorities, as well as the agency.” The RTIA has confirmed that it is looking to e-mail to send out a variety of notices. It says e-mail will also provide for electronic links for transfer of Aarto-related data, such as electronic infringement notices and the nomination of the driver in the vehicle when the infringement occurred.

When it comes to e-mails to private individuals, they will have to register and provide their e-mail addresses and agree to be served notifications via e-mail. It notes that authentication methods still need to be put in place.

Yet, despite its intentions, it still has to do a “run” on the system to determine the number of e-mail addresses recorded to date, and has not tested the correctness of e-mail addresses on the database.


However, Dembovsky, argues that this will not solve the route problem of inaccurate information on the database. He says motorists do update information, but this is not being correctly captured.

As a result, the low collection rate will persist, Dembovsky says, calling the aim “over ambitious”. Controversy has surrounded fines sent out under the Aarto pilot as previous offences, sent by ordinary mail, were deemed to be invalid.

Dembovsky says the underlying problem with eNatis remains in force and, until this is fixed, nothing will work to resolve the challenges around Aarto. He adds that it does not help if fines are being sent to phantoms, and e-mail will fall victim to the same problem.

Mmusi Maimane, DA spokespersonMmusi Maimane, DA spokesperson

In addition, says Dembovsky, the agency will find itself with “egg on its face” the first time there is a court challenge as the motorist could have changed e-mail addresses and never received the official communication.

Dembovsky says the pitfall with e-mail is that “strange things happen” such as bills ending up in the junk folder, and read requests being ignored. “What proof do you have?”

Only PC users would be able to read the notices as they are in such a form that smartphones are not practical, says Dembovsky. “Would you like to try and view an Aarto 03 infringement notice on your phone, regardless of how super duper your phone is?”

An 03 notice is one posted after an infringement has occurred. Aarto cannot be fixed by turning to either ordinary post or e-mail, says Dembovsky.

, MD of , notes that about six million people have access to the Internet on a PC, which means that only a minimum of 50% of SA’s 10 million drivers would have an e-mail address that would allow them to view infringements easily.

While the option to receive fines via e-mail is fine if it is optional, the authorities will not be able to prove delivery, says Goldstuck. He points out it is standard for people to disable delivery reports, which is actually recommended as these create noise in inboxes.

In addition, people do change e-mail addresses, says Goldstuck.


Even if low compliance is just due to lackadaisical motorists, the problem with enforcing the Aarto pilot project is seen as a forewarner of the trouble the South African National Roads Agency () will have in getting people to cough up for the controversial e-tolling system in Gauteng.

Compliance with e-toll bills by motorists who have not bought e-tags is expected to be even less than the current low collection rate for fines issued under the ’s Gauteng pilot of Aarto Act.

, the ’s shadow minister of transport, has said the eNatis database is “grossly corrupt” when it comes to information on vehicle owners. He said, if people do not buy e-tags, will only have a photograph of a vehicle with a number plate and the make and model. “How do they find you?”

According to , about 600 000 motorists have e-tags, although this figure has been questioned by opponents to the controversial system. According to the Automobile Association, there are about four million registered vehicles in Gauteng.

Ollis said the flaws with the eNatis database present a “massive” problem for and the consortium that has to collect . “Enforcing compliance will be impossible.”

Maimane points out that fines under Aarto, piloting since 2008, are sent out using data on eNatis, which will also be used by the South African National Roads Agency () to send out e-toll invoices. “The means to collect and enforce fines in Gauteng simply does not exist, and that implementation of is, therefore, doomed to fail,” he says.

Dembovsky says nine of the 10 people who contact it say they discovered their fines on PayCity – not even the aarto.gov.za Web site. “The Johannesburg Metro Police Department is on record as saying that it has boxes upon boxes of uncollected infringement notices.”

While Dembovsky has no idea how much of the database is polluted, if a comparison was run between the eNatis registry and credit databases, he is certain that this would reveal huge discrepancies.

Only the South African Police Service, traffic and licensing authorities have access to the eNatis registry, says Dembovsky. However, he points out that all traffic authorities in South Africa use the system.

And, while has said that it will not go through Aarto to prosecute those who travel without paying, it will have to use eNatis, says Dembovsky. However, ’s stated intention of using the Criminal Procedure Act means that, to deliver infringement notices or summonses to people, the eNatis registry will have to be used to identify the person behind the number plate, since facial recognition is not a reality on a wide scale, he adds.

“Whether uses Aarto or the Criminal Procedure Act to prosecute e-toll transgressions is irrelevant. Either way, they will have to use the eNatis registry to identify the human beings they intend to prosecute.”


The eNatis system includes registers of motor vehicles, motor trade numbers, temporary and special permits, as well as driving licences and professional driving permits. The awarded the eNatis contract to Tasima, which developed and still operates the system, in December 2001.

However, that contract is currently after scrutiny. Although Tasima won a recent round in a lengthy court battle after the agreed to honour the ruling under “protest”, the battle is not over.

The department will appeal the decision at the Supreme Court of Appeal and is contesting aspects of the contract, although it will not divulge what. According to The Times, some of the fees claimed by Tasima, amounting to R12 million, are in dispute because the work was never done.

The publication reports that Tasima is under investigation by the Hawks. This, the latest in several legal battles, comes after a High Court judge lambasted both the (DOT) and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) after Tasima had to go to court four times to get paid.

Tasima took the department, the director-general (currently filled on an interim basis by Maria du Toit), the minister (currently " rel=tag>Dipuo Peters), and former eNatis project manager Werner Koekemoer to court to force the department to comply with three previous orders, pay up R118 million and give it the necessary tools to do its work.

This is not the first time that the project, which integrated 15 databases from the previous system into one national database, has come under scrutiny.

In the middle of 2008, the auditor-general found pre- and post-implementation issues with the project. These included cost overruns, an untested disaster recovery plan, a potential lack of segregation of duties, inadequate hardware and insufficient server capacity leading to slow system performance.

These issues, wrote the AG in the report, were in process of being addressed. However, almost five years later, the AG found other problems with the project. This January, the oversight body released a report that found the department had grossly overpaid for the national database of vehicles.

Moreover, the database was found to be ineffective because data is not being correctly captured, which could lead to a procedural nightmare for motorists. The department has ignored a request for comment on the level of pollution within the system, as has Tasima.