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TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
24 October 2001
NATIONAL LAND TRANSPORT TRANSITION AMENDMENT BILL: VOTING ON NCOP AMENDMENTS; ROAD TO SAFETY 2001 – 2005 STRATEGY: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr JP Cronin
Documents handed out:
National Land Transport Transition Amendment Bill [B 39B – 2001]
Road to Safety 2001-2005 Strategy
Committee Report on Road Accident Fund Board (see Appendix)
The Committee adopted without change the National Land Transport Transition Amendment Bill as amended by the NCOP. The Department briefed the Committee on the Road to Safety 2001 – 2005 strategy to be launched on 20 November 2001.
National Land Transport Transition Amendment Bill
The Committee formally adopted the National Land Transport Transition Amendment Bill as amended by the NCOP.
Road to Safety 2001 – 2005 strategy
Mr S Khumalo explained that the Road to Safety 2001 – 2005 would be launched on 20 November 2001. This is not the replacement of the Arrive Alive Campaign whose focus is communication and enforcement. The Road to Safety attends to some of the underlining causes of the carnage on our roads, which Arrive Alive is not addressing adequately.
Two new institutions, the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), would be key instruments of the Road to Safety strategy. There are political processes that the Department is smoothing out in preparing for the introduction of the Road Traffic Management Corporation.
The Road to Safety attempts to attend to driver competency, vehicle fitness linked to fraud and corruption in the licencing of vehicles and drivers, fraud and corruption itself, overloading in freight and passengers, lack of proper and adequate road maintenance leading to poor road conditions. Of the 10 000 people that die on the roads annually, 40% are pedestrians which is unacceptable. This is the result of drivers’ disregard for other road users and a lack of awareness and education at the level of communities with respect to road traffic.
The department is undertaking to workshop this document to all important role players, including this committee, building up to the launch.
Mr S Farrow (DP) commented that amongst the six identified key problems, three of them involve a tremendous amount of capacity in terms visible policing, testing stations and fraud within the licencing system. How does the Department expect to put that into effect?
Mr S Khumalo replied that the Department was building a form of public-private partnership for safety, starting with Business Against Crime who would assist the Department with translating the strategy into specific projects, clear budgets and clear milestones. They would also assist with attending to capacity constraints thus enabling the strategy to be practical.
The Department believes some of the issues do not require massive investment because there are initiatives at provincial level around pedestrian and community safety campaigns that the Department is taking advantage of. The latter involves communities becoming champions of road safety and these are some of the things the Department would be showcasing on 20 November.
Road to Safety 2001 – 2005 strategy (continued)
Mr L Mangcu noted that on 10 October the Department had convened a meeting where it had invited business community representatives (such as MTN, Daimler Chrysler, 3M, plus the CSIR and CommuterNet) with the purpose of assisting the Department to make the Road to Safety strategy happen. The Department took them through the strategy and its aims and invited them to join hands with the Department to try and make this happen. Among matters agreed upon, were to put together working groups consisting of both government and business and also put together an events-organizing committee whose task would be to organise the 20 November launch. The task of its communication committee would be to rally the media around the coming event, while the mobilizing committee’s task would be to talk to as many organisations as possible about the Road to Safety strategy.
Business Against Crime has agreed to second a manager to the Department as Project Manager to the Road to Safety strategy.
Some successes have been made which would be identified on 20 November such as ‘Pedestrian Safety’, the Winelands Project in the Western Cape, Mamelodi and certain projects in a couple of other provinces. There has been a clampdown of taxis in the Eastern Cape during the past few weeks and the Department would like to share these successes with people who would be at the launch.
Arrive Alive would be launching its Phase Six towards December. This launch would heighten law enforcement, communication, visibility, and general awareness around that period. The Arrive Alive Phase Six would be launched on 1 December and the Road Accident Fund would give the Department R15 million for this phase.
The Road to Safety strategy is an umbrella while Arrive Alive is an operational arm of the actual strategy. The Department has set aside R1.2 million for appointing a forensic audit team to do forensic audit of corruption hot spots especially around vehicles and personal licencing. This project would kick-start around 20 November.
The Department has put aside R21.5 million to assist provinces and local authorities upgrade their driver’s licence testing centres. That project has already started and the Department is hoping that by the end of the financial year that money would all have been spent.
The Department is going on tender to computerize their learner’s licence system and the process is well advanced. This is budgeted for and the tender document would be finalised soon. The Department believes this would contribute to road safety where people are buying licences instead of testing for them.
They are also introducing a National Traffic Call Centre for people to phone in reporting incidents of people driving with cell phones, overtaking on barrier lines, fraud and corruption, driver testing and vehicle fitness, and pedestrian safety.
On the pedestrian front the Department has identified ten red spots per province called ‘Pedestrian Red Spots’ where pedestrians are "killed". They have joined hands with business who are prepared to put up signs free of charge in a couple of identified sights and want to roll out a plan where they would give people arm bands that are reflective. This would mean community involvement.
In terms of the event itself the Department has appointed an event organizer within the Department who would address the issue of the event itself. The guest list they have agreed upon in terms of the launch on the 20 November includes MPs and the President is likely to officiate at the launch of the Safety Strategy together with the Minister, all provincial MECs and provincial standing committees on transport, big business involved in transport and other partners like MTN and Vodacom who are not directly involved in transport but have been supportive.
Mr Ainslie (ANC) asked when would the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) be rolled out? Secondly, was the Department considering inserting machines into passenger transport vehicles to detect speed limit contraventions and driver’s fatigue as tested by the SABS? Thirdly, are radio stations prepared to support the Road Safety strategy especially for people in rural areas?
Mr Khumalo replied that their intention was to roll out the RTIA before December in an incremental way starting in Pretoria by appointing a registrar and a board and based on lessons learnt there, they would roll out nationally on an incremental basis.
On the speed limits Mr A Crewe responded that there were many products being made in South Africa but the department had not had time to negotiate with the taxi industry on the use of such machines. In the last six months they have spoken to the RAF and SABOA and they are working with them on that. He said there are very complex issues around the implementation of this. In his view they would end up in use in passenger transport - at least by making top speed limits compulsory.
On the use of radio stations, Mr Mangcu said they have not done this but that the Department would investigate its practicality.
Mr G Schneemann (ANC) pointed out that the 20 November launch would be near to the Beyers Naude Drive where people are being killed almost daily. If the launch is around that area, it would be good to have a practical exercise in that area which would impact on the community.
He continued that many freight trucks are in shocking condition and pointed out that there was a need to educate the industry on container overloading to avoid exacerbating the condition of the roads. Many of Spoornet’s weighbridges are not operational at container terminals and he recommended that the Department talk to Spoornet, as they are "some of the major culprits" on our roads. Finally, what sort of education is going to be given to the taxi associations regarding safety?
Mr Khumalo said that the Department would take note of the Beyers Naude Road suggestion.
The Department had started a process of engaging the Road Freight Association and it was hoped that it would assist the Department in tackling overloading on the roads. He agreed that the weighbridges were not properly managed and if the private sector is brought on board, it may improve that situation. With regard to the allegation regarding Spoornet overloading, he was not sure about this unless that was investigated. Mr Khumalo said that with the launch of SATACO in Durban this year the Department was hoping to engage this body in order to tackle the issues faced by the taxi industry especially with respect to safety.
Mr S Farrow (DP) asked for clarification on the Road Traffic Management Corporation position. Would the mechanism for the public to report traffic offences be toll free? As a general question, he asked what other agencies were they intending to bring in order to make this reporting more effective?
Mr Khumalo said that the RTMC was intended to coordinate the fragmented way in which road traffic is managed and again the Department would use an incremental approach in introducing it.
Mr Khumalo commented that the biggest issue facing law enforcement was professionalism in the traffic department. The annual salary of traffic officers is R36 000 which was a recipe for disaster. On whistle blowing, Mr Khumalo said that the Department was going to launch a national call centre with the support of MTN before the end of the financial year.
On it being a toll free initiative, Mr Mangcu added that this had been abused in the past and gave the example of 10111 where as much as 90% of the calls were abusive. If the public was serious about reporting a traffic offence, they would be prepared to pay the seventy cent cost for the call.
Mr J Slabbert (IFP) asked what the Department was doing about squatter camps abutting national roads. Further, how were they going about vehicle testing since most taxis on the roads were not road worthy?
Mr Mangcu replied that like the law enforcement issue, this issue cannot be addressed overnight and would be difficult to make promises that it can be tackled easily. It would need a concerted effort of all stakeholders.
Mr Khumalo added that there are two dimensions to pedestrian safety the first being the driver’s disregard of pedestrians which is a law enforcement issue and the other is awareness where one needs to educate the communities about pedestrian safety.
Before adjourning the meeting, Mr Cronin asked the Department to provide the Committee with the list of ‘red spots’ so committee members could establish if they fall under their constituencies and see what they could do about addressing these danger spots.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Transport on the Road Accident Fund Board, dated 24 October 2001:
The Portfolio Committee on Transport, having conducted a hearing with the Road Accident Fund Board, reports as follows:
1. The Committee conducted an extensive hearing with the Board of the Road Accident Fund on 10 October 2001. The Minister of Transport, in accordance with the Road Accident Fund Act, appointed the Board on 1 June 2000. The Committee sought to establish what progress has since been made by the Board in identifying problems within the Fund, and with introducing corrective measures.
2. In its report to the Committee, the Board indicated that shortly after its inauguration, the Board had initiated a forensic audit by external consultants. The independent audit identified a number of serious problems, including:
(a) A lack of capacity at senior management level. The Fund had been without a substantive Chief Executive Officer since September 1998, and some critical senior positions were either vacant or non-existent.
(b) Very high levels of staff turnover.
(c) Poor systems, including outdated and unwieldy information processing, and the conflation of different functions in the handling of claims.
These poor systems also created conditions in which fraud could more easily occur, and the audit indicated several areas in which there was strong circumstantial evidence suggesting fraud and the existence of syndicates within the Fund.
3. In their report, and in responses to questions from the Committee, Board members indicated that active steps were being taken to remedy these and other problems. Such steps included:
(a) The appointment of a CEO, and the filling and/or creation of senior management positions.
(b) The progressive re-engineering of claims administration and more effective use of information technology.
(c) Close co-operation with the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions and its agencies to deal with fraud. Following the audit, there have been eight dismissals, and 22 staff members are under investigation.
4. The Committee commended the Board for its activism, and for the remedial steps it had undertaken. However, the Committee expressed concern that interim arrangements, like members of the Board being directly involved with the management of the Fund, not be seen as permanent. It is desirable that the functions of the Board and the management of the Fund should not be conflated. The Committee also expressed disappointment that the independent audit had not been made available to the Road Accident Fund Commission and to Parliament, as it could greatly assist the Committee in its oversight function.
5. The Committee also raised questions about allegations made in the public domain about possible conflicts of interest in respect of some members of the Board. Board members responded that they had never hidden the nature of their private business activities; indeed, these issues were expressly raised during the selection interviews. They pointed out that the Road Accident Fund Act requires certain skills to be represented on the Board, and that some of these skills were only to be found among professionals doing active work, either for the Fund or for claimants in respect of the Fund. Board members further insisted that Board deliberations could have no direct bearing on any of their private business activities. The Committee noted these explanations, and indicated that ongoing engagement on this matter was required.
6. Board and Committee members alike agreed that many of the above problems could only be fully addressed by considering fairly substantial changes to the character of the Fund itself. These changes would require legislative amendments. The Committee was encouraged that the Board had begun to discuss a number of legislative amendments, and although the Board's own discussions are not fully complete, it is proposing that the following areas are among those that could be considered with a view to amendment:
(a) To remove the current limitation to R25 000 of the liability of the Fund in respect of the claims of all passengers in order to give the same unlimited cover enjoyed by other claimants also to this category of claimant.
(b) To abolish the procedural right of medical suppliers to claim directly from the Fund.
(c) To limit the liability of the Fund in respect of claims of non-residents of the Republic to a reasonable amount to be determined.
(d) To authorise the Fund to provide managed treatment plans, under an outreach programme, to injured persons with medical needs extending into the future.
(e) To exclude the application of the Assessment of Damages Act, 1969, which prevents the deduction of insurance and pension monies when assessing compensation for loss of support.
(f) To render deductible all collateral benefits in the case of a claim for compensation due to bodily injury.
(g) To ensure better provision in respect of undertakings to pay future loss of income and of support by way of instalments, instead of in the form of a predetermined cash lump-sum.
(h) To pay substantial general damages for ongoing pain and suffering by way of instalments, rather than by way of a cash lump-sum.
(i) To exclude compensation for emotional shock (allegedly) induced when a person, not actually involved in an accident, witnesses or hears of the injury or death of another person in an accident.
(j) To provide for mediation/arbitration as the primary dispute resolution mechanism for claims against the Fund.
(k) To provide for compensation on a no-fault basis in respect of the stabilisation of trauma victims during a "golden hour" period after an accident.
(l) To bring the costs of medical treatment of road accident victims in line with a dedicated Road Accident Fund tariff.
(m) To extend the fuel levy to natural gas and green/bio-diesel used as fuel in motor vehicles.
7. The Committee is of the view that such legislative amendments would make a major contribution to improving the financial viability of the Fund, to ensure that a much greater proportion of the awards find its way to actual claimants and to remove many of the features of the Fund that have exposed it to the dangers of abuse and fraud. The Committee notes the ongoing work of the Road Accident Fund Commission, and further notes that the Commission's report is now only scheduled for public release in July 2002. The Committee believes that interim legislative amendments are urgently needed, and that such amendments would not prejudice further restructuring of the Fund once the Commission has reported. Indeed, based on our interim hearings with the Commission, we are convinced that the amendments proposed by the Board are substantially congruent with the broad strategic direction that the Commission's report will recommend.
8. The Committee believes there is one other legislative amendment that might be considered. While the final appointment of the Board should still be the prerogative of the Minister, the relevant parliamentary committees should make provision for public hearings for the purposes of short-listing. Such hearings could help to build public confidence where there are concerns about conflicts of interest or representativity.
9. The Committee therefore recommends that:
(a) For the purposes of enhancing our public oversight role, the Road Accident Fund Board make available to Parliament the Independent Forensic Audit of the Fund that the Board had commissioned.
(b) The Minister of Transport give urgent attention to the possibility of introducing to Parliament early next year legislative amendments to the Road Accident Fund Act in the areas noted in paragraphs 7 and 8 above.
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