Department of Transport: Staffing, National Transport Masterplan, Gautrain, 2008 overexpenditure, Shova Kalula

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23 June 2009
Chairperson: Ms N Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Transport had been asked to return to a further meeting with the Portfolio Committee in order to give further clarity on certain items raised during its presentation on the Strategic Plans and budget. Members asked for clarity on the Department’s organogram and the vacancy rates, asking it these included acting appointments and non funded posts. The Department explained its restructuring exercise and how those posts would be filled over the three year period, as also that the capacity to deal with the vacancies had been extended. The growth in the staff establishment was explained. In relation to the Department’s Masterplan, questions were asked as to how, in particular, the Department intended to address the ongoing need to transfer current road freight to rail, whether the Department had any say in the activities of Transnet, the need for integration between ports, airports and road and what was being done by the various Departments and Regulators. The position of Transnet was explained, and the interactions between departments were set out. The Department, at the request of Members, then defined other problematic areas and highlighted the proposals for the transfer of Transnet to the Department of Transport and the possibility of the private sector intervening in the market. Members then addressed Gautrain and asked for a definition of what “integration” meant, and for clarification that this did not mean inter-operability, although some suggested that this issue should be further investigated. Members expressed their concerns that the SADC Protocols had led to the Gautrain implementation, but that there was a need to improve rail services between Oliver Tambo, Pretoria, Johannesburg and to look again at the track gauges. Members also questioned the incidence of railway accidents and asked how these occurred. Questions were asked around the obligation upon the Department to pay R6.5 million for damages arising out of a motor accident claim of Mrs du Toit. They also said that attention must also be given to Taxi Recapitalisation, Bus Rapid Transport, and use of the Park and Ride for 2010. Members then turned their attention to Shova Kalula project, that intended to provide bicycles to schoolchildren, to enable them to access schooling, and questioned whether this was really feasible, the costs, whether there was a possibility to create jobs by manufacturing bicycles in South Africa, whether cooperatives could become involved, and how this project linked to overcoming poverty.

Members felt it was important that the new unit set up in the Department to deal with 2010 transport issues should also meet with the Department of Public Enterprises and their Portfolio Committee. They asked about contingency plans by SAA for over-booking, lack of communication between departments and entities, the need for planning for urban renewal and rural development to alleviate poverty, the need to fast-track service delivery, the extent to which the Strategic plans were linked to the 2003 National Household Travel Survey, and commented that transport continued to be expensive. The relationships with the Department of Trade and Industry in relation to development of the local motor industry, the position of the Cross Border Road Transport Agency, the Road Accident Fund, coordination between provincial and local government were all identified as needing attention.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted that the Department of Transport (DOT) had been asked to return to a further meeting with the Portfolio Committee in order to give further clarity on certain items raised during its presentation on the Strategic Plans and budget. She asked Members to raise their queries.

Organogram and staff establishment
Mr S Farrow (DA) asked for clarity relating to the organogram and the vacancy of posts.  He wanted to know if the 40% vacancy rate in the previous financial year included Acting positions and non funded posts.

Ms Mpumi Mpofu, Director General, Department of Transport, said that the 40% vacancy did include people appointed in acting positions, as well as people in non funded positions. Acting appointments had been made to some of the vacant posts. The current 9% vacancy rate also included acting positions, but did not include unfunded posts, since an established organisation was one that was funded.

Ms Mpofu further explained that as a result of a very extensive restructuring exercise, the Department grew from three to nine branches, which, by definition, would have increased the number of staff from 610 to over 1 000. This Restructuring Proposal was submitted to the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) for approval. Thereafter it was submitted to the National Treasury for financing. The response was that it was appropriate for such an organisational structure to proceed, but that this proposal, owing to the substantial increase it envisaged, could not be financed over a single financial year. The Department of Transport then agreed on a phased approach, where not all the posts would not be financed in a single year. This resulted in the 40% vacancy rate, but DOT was proceeding to fill some posts each year.

The extended recruitment drive to add capacity to fast track and process posts in the department had also caused the reduction in the vacancy rate. It was important to note that the original staff were not able to cope with the issue of vacancies, and this caused capacity blockage. Therefore the increased capacity to deal with the vacancies had been a success. The vacancy rate was 37% at the end of the third Parliament, and was down to half this number by the end of December 2008. She said that DOT had achieved stability at 9% vacancy rate.

She added that the large number of applicants for any posts, which she ascribed to the current high unemployment rates in the country, and the high turnover or circulation of staff within the government posed a challenge for vacancy rates. There had been some management measures taken to prevent job-hopping at such a high rate.

Mr Farrow asked for an explanation on figures on staff numbers, which showed growth from 610 to 1000 staff.

Ms Mpofu replied that the staff establishment was a function of National Treasury and was funded on a progressive basis. The original staff estimate of over 1 000 was ideally what was required. The strategic plan was designed for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) of three years, not for one year. The progress of this strategic plan over the MTEF period depended on agencies, provinces, and municipalities, and their ability to implement the programmes. The Capacity Assessment must therefore take into account all these agencies and other tiers of government. Their interventionist approach included guidance on both the provincial and municipal level. There were joint local and national teams which covered gaps, for instance where certain municipalities might themselves lack capacity. In this way, the DOT was achieving success and faster implementation of programmes.

National Transport Masterplan
Mr Farrow asked how the Department intended to implement its National Transport Masterplan, as set out in a previous meeting, as many other entities of government cross cut the operations of the DOT. Each year the Committee had endeavored to make rail, rather than road, the main mode of bulk transport. The roads had continued to deteriorate. There was still very little logistical planning between the DOT and Transnet, who ran freight rail. He asked how the DOT could achieve control over that entity’s activities.

Mr Farrow also said that there was a need for integration between the ports, airports and road traffic. He asked whether the Ministers of Transport and Public Enterprises had discussed how this could effectively be managed. In the past, the Committee had insight and oversight over South African Airways (SAA), as well as some Spoornet and Portnet aspects. A regulator was now established through the DOT, but it had no impact on operations on the ground. The impact of this issue on the Masterplan needed to be addressed.

Ms Mpofu replied that the Masterplan was drawn up also in conjunction with Transnet, and particularly incorporated the Ports and Rail Masterplan that related to Transnet activity. Since DOT had responsibility for institutional arrangements, the DOT did not have proper oversight and policy intervention into the business of Transnet, principally because this was a State owned entity that accounted to the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE). This needed to be resolved, so that DOT could align with Transnet in the area of ports and rail. Transnet should ideally be guided by the DOT, which was responsible for policy and operations in this area, although the corporate business of Transnet should account to DPE.

Ms Mpofu added that there was interaction between the departments in several areas. The newly established Port Regulator had started engaging with Transnet and had started to regulate its business. Freight Policy and Strategy almost had to be done on a consultative basis: the DOT was responsible for Freight Policies and Operations, but could not interact directly with Transnet. This was a critical issue, and both freight and logistics were affected by this problem.

Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC) asked if Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) reported to the DPE or DOT.

Ms Mpofu replied that the DOT was a 90% shareholder of ACSA, therefore it reported to the DOT.

The Chairperson asked about the shareholder definition of Transnet.

Ms Mpofu replied that the shareholder of Transnet was defined as DPE, and that the schedule of shareholder status would be given to the Committee.

Mr Farrow said that there was no control over the tariffs of these institutions, other than some limited control that was exercised by the Regulator. The objective of the DOT was to get road traffic moving to rail traffic, yet rail was running an inefficient service. He suggested that rail should be more efficient and competitive in order to solve the problem.

The Chairperson asked Ms Mpofu to identify other problem areas, especially in light of the fact that there was now a Planning and Monitoring Committee which could effect change in service delivery.

Ms Mpofu said that there had been processes in Government, just before the previous Parliament had ended, to propose a realignment of functions, so that matters could be rectified in the new Parliament. One proposal was to facilitate the transfer of Transnet and SAA to the DOT. The second proposal, which was discussed at least at the Director Generals’ Forum, defined a restructuring mechanism for the DPE. If an entity that operated as a commercial company was competitive in its operating environment, but did not have a monopoly, it would get a distinct unfair advantage if it were to be located in the Line Function Department. However, if such an entity was operating as a monopoly, was 100% State-owned, had no competitors and had some sort of regulatory function, then it should be located in a line function of the relevant Department, so that both entities’ activities could be better aligned, for better operation. Monopoly companies were essentially extensions or implementing arms of the Department of Transport. Those two principles were put forward to guide separation and realign entities with respect to DPE. DPE should pull together and manage small commercial/corporate businesses. DPE should not manage State monopolies.

Ms Mpofu continued to explain that the problem with Transnet was that most of its functions were regulatory. Transnet Port functioned both as a regulator and operator. Restructuring intervention in this area was absolutely critical.  National Freight Logistic Strategy (NFLS) promoted competition in this environment. Clearly stipulated mechanisms in NFLS that opened the market and allowed for the private sector to participate would improve service delivery to the public and broaden the network of services.

Gautrain Integration
Mr S De Freitas asked how the Gautrain rail link would be integrated into the holistic plan, as Gautrain rail tracks were different to all other rail. He asked for understanding of the DOT’s use of the term ‘integration’.

Ms Mpofu said that “integration” in relation to Gautrain meant that at Park Stations, the Gautrain station would be integrated with Metrorail stations. Ideally platforms should be shared, but Gautrain emerged underground, and therefore a structural problem prevented platform sharing. However, infrastructure had created links at Park Station in order to allow for that. At all other major stations, integration had been implemented on a cross-platform level, which allowed passengers to change tracks at the platform. That alignment meant that the Gautrain and Metrorail Station Operations had been sealed. By definition, integration did not mean inter-operability and therefore was not affected by track width requirements. A policy decision stated that any new rail development would be done on the wide gauge basis and similar mechanisms would ensure that the new system would be integrated with the old.

The other important integrative mechanism was the issue of ticketing on a smartcard technology basis, which allowed for inter-operability on the various taxis, buses, rail and Gautrain systems.

Mr De Freitas asked how in the long term the DOT would do away with old tracks and replace them with wide tracks, or whether there would be a mixture of both, and if it was practical to have two systems of tracks at the same station.

Mr Farrow suggested that the Gautrain was not integrated but ran in parallel with Metrorail. The previous Committee was against the use of dual systems of tracks. It had felt that the feasibility of the Gautrain could be more sustainable if there was a combined operation of Metrorail on to those services when it was running off peak. The Southern African Development Community (SADC)  Protocol needed to be re examined. This signed Protocol stipulated that every future railway would be constructed with the wide gauge rail.

Mr Farrow said that the Minister had repeatedly said that he wanted to see this system integrated. Integration meant cross utilisation of the services involved in the massive amounts of rail in South Africa. The rail link that connected Oliver Tambo, Pretoria and Sandton represented only 1% or 2% of the total rail network in the country. He suspected that funds would not be available for wide gauge tracks in the future. The reason for the wider gauge track being used for the Gautrain was purely as a result of a bid. One company was able to supply wide track rail in that particular size and gauge. He said that he feared that if the train service between Pretoria and Sandton was not sustainable and did not attract 100 000 passengers, then Gautrain might become a white elephant. At present the Pretoria to Johannesburg railway ran at one third of the price of the Gautrain. From a technical perspective, the Gautrain was a bad move. The report would show that Gautrain was ordered not for speed, since Metrorail attained speeds of 160km per hour on its current network, but because of the type of train in terms of the tender and the bid. He suspected that Gautrain was linked to the fact of the SADC Protocol.

The Chairperson suggested that all the documentation be revisited and studied, and that the Committee should come up with recommendations for improving transport services. Gautrain would be treated as a pilot project. The Members should observe what was happening with other countries, because the Committee would be interacting with other countries. It was important to discuss not only Gautrain, but Transnet’s activities both in South Africa and to SADC destinations.

Ms N Ngele (ANC) asked for the reasons for the high incidence of railway accidents in South Africa.

Ms Mpofu replied that train accidents occurred when trains switched tracks, and the signal did not stop the train. The signaling system was old and needed upgrading. Passenger Rail Agency South Africa (PRASA) and South African Rail and Coach Refurbishment Programmes were now investing in these areas. Transnet controlled access of passengers on to the track and priority was given to freight rail systems rather than the passenger. This was a regulator function which should not be in the hands of the operator.

Mr Newhoudt-Druchen commented that there was a rail accident in Washington DC, where there were no funding issues. She asked if that too was a signaling problem.

Mr Lanfranc Situma, Programme Manager, National Transport Masterplan, DOT, said that the reason for the head-on collision of two trains at peak hour in Washington DC was a signalling fault of the Block Control. The Block Control signalling was supposed to warn the train operator with two additional red light warnings if the train passed through the first red light. In South Africa, there was no Block Control. In addition, the train wave in an urban area may not respond to one wave frequency only, and therefore there was a higher rate of accidents due to interference of a single signal in the urban areas.

Ms Newhoudt-Druchen said that there should be accommodation made for disabled people to access all modes of transport. She also said that visitors to South Africa in 2010 would be confused by the lack of proper signage. Perhaps use of colours or symbols would improve visibility for passengers. She also asked why such little funding was allocated to Cross Border Rail Transport (CBRT) issues.

Mr E Lucas (IFP) said that most people who needed to claim from the Road Accident Fund (RAF) in relation to injuries sustained in motor accidents were poor people. Legal fees were high and deterred many victims from claiming from the RAF. That was an issue needing attention.

Mr Lucas also suggested that the Taxi Recapitalisation and the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) System should given immediate attention. Heavy vehicles were destroying roads. Many drivers were licensing their vehicles in Swaziland to try to avoid local legislation. He asked what could be done about this problem.

Mr P Poho (COPE) said that the figures given in the presentation on 2010 on usage of the Park and Ride were misleading.

Overexpenditure of R6.5 million on accident claim
Mr De Freitas asked about over expenditure arising from a claim for injuries incurred by a person in a motor vehicle accident, and asked why this did not go through the Road Accident Fund. 

Mr Collins Letsoalo, Deputy Director General: Financial Services, DOT, explained that in 1997 Ms D Du Toit sued three parties in the amount of R30.3 million in respect of their alleged negligence; the Minister of Transport, Toll Road Concession (Pty) Ltd and her husband, J du Toit. She won the case, and the Minister appealed. The Court again found in her favour on appeal. The Court’s award of R6.5 million was apportioned according to the respective levels of negligence: namely 80% negligence by her husband, 15% by the Toll Road Concession, and 5% by the Minister because there had been no checks that the Toll Road Concession had maintained its road signs. The Court ordered that the Department should pay the R6.5 million and then claim back from the other defendants. The eventual liability to the Department was R395 000.

Mr Letsoalo said that the Department did not want to set precedents and that the RAF would normally handle these matters, so that Court actions did not implicate the Ministry.

The Chairperson asked for the total cost and time spent on court matters as against monitoring the maintenance roads and signage. If roads were maintained, the Department would not have been implicated in the action. 

Mr Farrow queried why the Department should be liable when the concessionaire was paid by motorists specifically to ensure safe roads from point A to B. He felt that liability properly lay with the toll road concessionaire, not the DOT.

Ms Mpofu replied that the Court had found the liability to be otherwise, and it was in fact the joinder of the parties that put the DOT in this predicament. She wished to challenge the correctness of the Court order which stated that one party should pay and then claim from others.  A full report was necessary to take the issue forward as a legal matter. The Department would respond to the Committee in writing after locating the legal documents to reveal total legal costs, number of cases, prevalence of such claims and so forth.
The Chairperson said that the issue with the toll accident related to issues of transformation and responsibility. If a service provider was not performing according to government standards, then a monitoring system should allow for termination of the concession.

Shova Kalula (Ride Easy) project
Ms N Ngele (ANC) asked how the Shova Kalula project would be managed, given that some children had to cross mountains and rivers without bridges.

The Chairperson simplified the question saying that although the Committee was in agreement that Shova Kalula, the initiative to provide bicycles as a form of transport to schoolchildren, responded to a poverty need, its implementation was questionable if no roads or bicycle tracks existed.

Ms Mpofu explained that the Shova Kalula Project was a second economy Intervention Programme and was important in rural areas. The Department of Transport would first assess an area, then selected schools and pupils who walked more than 5km to school. Then a maintenance container to maintain the bicycles was set up. The bicycle tracks were developed, although infrastructure was slow to progress due to lack of funding from the National Treasury. The objective was to deliver one million bicycles in five years, to enhance access to education among the youth. Funding allowed for delivery of 15 000 bicycles per year.

Another challenge was that of bicycle manufacturing in South Africa. Parts were imported and the bicycles were only assembled in South Africa. She said that bicycle parts should be manufactured in South Africa, and this would help to create jobs. 

Mr de Freitas said that he was sceptical yet interested to see the implementation of the programme.

Mr Farrow said that from what he understood, the DOT did not have the capacity for providing new bicycles.

Mr Lucas said that in rural areas, where some children got up at 4am to walk to school, the importance of such a programme would be realised. He agreed that the manufacture of bicycles in South African would immediately create jobs and should be encouraged.

The Chairperson wished to see the link of the Shova Kalula project to poverty reduction. Pronouncements by the President to reduce poverty by 50% by 2040 were meant to direct the focus of all departments. She would like to receive a list of all the turnaround strategies from the Department linked to poverty reduction. In particular, she asked that the Department address whether Shova Kalula could show poverty reduction of 50% by 2040, whether it could show any areas specifically targeted, whether there were policies in place to give opportunities to cooperatives to manufacture bicycles and whether this project might reduce crime by offering job opportunities.

Ms Mpofu said that the anti- poverty strategy, which was led by the Presidency, had various grants and Shova Kalula was the recipient of one of those grants.

Miscellaneous issues

The Chairperson noted that a unit within the DoT had been set up to deal with 2010 transport issues, and that it was important that this branch meet with the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises and that Department. The issue of reporting of Transnet and South African Airways (SAA) needed to be discussed. She also hoped that it would be addressed at the level of the relevant Cabinet Clusters. 

The Chairperson also commented that over the last week there had been an increased public demand for flights, during the Confederation Cup and the rugby test series. She asked if there was a contingency plan by SAA to cope with over booking. Large numbers of people, including parliamentarians, were on standby on SAA. She asked which department would be held responsible for failure to plan and co ordinate transport, especially in relation to 2010. There was a need to strategise and find solutions to 2010 issues. Furthermore, new parliamentarians had not been issued with SAA gold cards, ‘drop and go’ VIP status, nor given priority on standby.

Ms N Khunou (ANC) said that communication between departments and entities had been below expectations, and had led to lack of policy implementation. The entities should inter-relate and relocate unused funds to unfunded mandates. She also suggested that the Department should plan for urban renewal and rural development to alleviate poverty, because where there was no rural accessibility there was no economic viability.

The Chairperson clarified that the problem of uncoordinated planning and implementation of programmes had been identified by the ANC in 2000, again in 2005, and once again at the most recent Polokwane Conference. The Planning Commission had been established to address these issues. The role of this Committee, together with the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, should therefore lie in evaluation. Land reform and rural development programmes had also been established as a response to those issues. The DoT required systems in place to fast track service delivery and respond to immediate issues within this new developing system.
Mr L Shasha, Research Assistant to the Committee,
asked about the extent to which the Department’s Strategic Plan in relation to rural development was linked to the 2003 National Household Travel Survey, since the Strategic Plan seemed to speak directly to urban development of nine cities. The Bus Rapid Transport, metered taxi strategy, and taxi operational plans did not sufficiently address the needs of the poorest of the poor, who had seen no progress. Transport continued to be expensive, taxis were not subsidised, and there was no comprehensive bus plan to alleviate the high number of accidents across the province.

He also asked what relationship DoT had with the Department of Trade and Industry in relation to development of the local motor industry, and if there was a plan by the Departments of Transport, Sport and Recreation, and Tourism for urban renewal and rural development arising out of the 2010 World Cup event.

Dr Maria Koorts, Deputy Director General, Department of Transport, discussed the Cross Border Road Transport Agency. She also discussed the restructuring of the RAF, which would include a no-fault policy and a fast-tracking system. The gross amounts put aside were to be received by the victims and the Committee would be engaged intensely in that matter.

Mr de Freitas said that formal co ordination was necessary between the provincial and local governments. This would improve transport problems in the rural areas, as well as in urban areas, who shared the transport problems of distance and expense.

The Chairperson agreed, adding that the Integrated Development Plan required that all departments co ordinate, and that to date the District Municipalities had not been taken seriously enough.

Ms Mpofu said that the rural-urban divide would be given priority and that implementation had indeed been urban biased. This would be refocused toward rural development. She also described the Second Economy programme interventions, with reference to the reduction of poverty in rural areas by 2014, and the Public Transport Infrastructure and Systems grant. A comprehensive written response would cover all the questions asked.

Mr B Nehabeleng, Acting Deputy Director General, DoT, explained Phase One and Two of the Public Transport Network.

The Chairperson said she would rather like to focus on a Bus Rapid Transport system for rural areas than for those areas that already had functioning transport systems.

Mr Nehabeleng said that a technology and design task team had been put in place for vehicles in rural areas, which included features to accommodate people with disabilities.

Mr Mawethu Vilana, Deputy Director General, DoT said that the four host cities had been prioritised for 2010, and that Rustenberg and Johannesburg posed the biggest challenges.

The Chairperson highlighted the importance of the Reconstruction and Development programme, ‘Masakane’, and the Freedom Charter.

The meeting was adjourned.


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