Electronic motorway vignettes lead to a reduction of annual costs by CZK 120 million on average, but the Ministry of Transport did not reach an optimal condition
Press release on audit No 22/01 – 13 March 2023
The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) verified how the Ministry of Transport (MoT), the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure (SFTI) and the state-owned enterprise CENDIS manage funds earmarked for the preparation, construction, operation and development of the Electronic Motorway Vignette System (so called EDAZ). Between January 2018 and April 2022, SFTI and the Ministry of Transport spent a total of CZK 329 million on electronic vignettes. In the first 13 months of operation of the new system, 6.1 million e-vignettes were sold for a total of CZK 5.47 billion. The auditors concluded that the e-vignette was efficient and cost-effective compared to the original vignette system. According to the SAO, the introduction of electronic vignettes reduced annual costs by an average of CZK 120 million.
The average annual cost of the electronic vignette system is 3.61%. The SFTI thus spends around CZK 54 on the e-vignette worth CZK 1,500, whereas in the past it spent CZK 76 per year for the conventional (paper-form) motorway vignette. The expenditure related to the original motorway vignettes was mainly generated by their printing and distribution, but also by the mark-up of the vignette dealers. The auditors have positively evaluated the fact that the introduction of the e-vignette has brought a number of benefits to its users, particularly the possibility to buy it via an online shop at any time of the year and the validity of the e-vignette is 365 consecutive calendar days from the date of purchase. The e-shop is also the most frequently used point of sale: 83.5 % of electronic vignettes were purchased in 2021.
However, the MoT, SFTI and CENDIS have not yet reached an optimal condition. Out of the six planned connections of the Electronic Vignette Information System (IS EDAZ) to other IT systems, the SFTI carried out only three. Particularly, there is a lack of automated data exchange with the Register of Road Vehicles (RRV). Thus, for example, verification that a vehicle is exempt from payment of the electronic vignette is carried out manually by the staff of the IS EDAZ call centre by checking the RRV database. If the automatic verification system was connected to the RRV, errors would be excluded and, consequently, the number of subsequent reimbursement claims would be reduced. For the period under review, payment of the e-vignette was refunded at the customer’s request in 1,017 cases. IS EDAZ also allows for the purchase of e-vignettes at a reduced eco-price (for vehicles fuelled with natural gas or biomethane). However, at the time of SAO’s audit, there was no verification carried out in the RRV database that a certain vehicle, at the time of purchase of the e-vignette, met the criterion for a reduced eco-price. Buyers could, by mistake or intentionally, use this shortcoming for their benefit, thereby reducing SFTI’s income from the sale of the e-vignette.
Nor is there an automatic offence evaluation system if a vehicle does not have a valid e-vignette. Although the video surveillance system on toll gates collects data on vehicle passages, breaches of the obligation to pay for an e-vignette and thus the commission of an offence are detected by the Police of the Czech Republic or the Customs Administration of the Czech Republic only after the vehicle has been stopped by one of these authorities. Under the current legislation, liability for an offence lies not with the operator of the vehicle but with its driver. The Ministry of Transport has, for the time being, suspended the introduction of the automated evaluation of offences into the legislation.
The total number of offences detected and the amount of fines imposed by police officers and customs officers in 2021 for the failure to purchase an e-vignette showed that, on average, 106 offences were detected each day and CZK 119,600 were collected on fines. The SAO calculated the potential SFTI’s revenue from the introduction of a system for the automatic imposition of fines and the consequent changes in the behaviour of non-paying drivers. For one model day, if these drivers purchased at least a 10-day e-vignette for CZK 310, the SFTI’s income would amount to at least CZK 1.5 million*.
The contract for the design, development, implementation and management of the electronic motorway vignette information system amounting to CZK 309.1 million excluding VAT was concluded by the SFTI with the state-owned company CENDIS on 3 March 2020. Over the audited period, the contract price was gradually increased through contract amendments to CZK 372.3 million excluding VAT.
A functional system had to be developed by CENDIS in 9 months, as it needed to be operational by 1 January 2021 at the latest. However, during the first seven months after the launch of the IS EDAZ, there were operational complications and errors – the system enabled purchases of e vignettes for non-existent licence plates or for the same licence plate during the same period, it also enabled the purchase of e-vignettes for vehicles exempt from payments, etc. As a result, the SFTI changed its terms and conditions five times and IS EDAZ was accepted only 19 months after its launch, but with 226 reservations.
For CENDIS, as the supplier of IS EDAZ, the creation of the information system constituted a temporary cumulative loss in its economic outturn (as of 30 April 2022) amounting to CZK 22.9 million. In May 2021, the Ministry of Transport granted refundable financial assistance of CZK 40 million to CENDIS from the state budget. The Ministry of Transport approved the request, although CENDIS defined only the general purpose of the use of these appropriations. The financial assistance was not directly linked to EDAZ, but it was one of the two loss-making projects which had a negative impact on the company’s business over the same period. CENDIS is obliged to repay this financial assistance by 29 February 2024.
*] This is an example for one day. Since it is not possible to estimate the behaviour of drivers when purchasing an e-vignette over a longer period of time, it is not possible to derive from this amount how high weekly or monthly potential SFTI revenues could be.
Supreme Audit Office