Department of Transport Budget Vote: deliberations & adoption of Committee Report

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

The Committee considered the draft Committee Report on the Department of Transport’s budget vote. Members, in their discussions, noted the serious challenges around rural infrastructure and asked what the Department was intending to do. They suggested that more attention be focused on the difference between amounts requested and allocated, that the purposes for which the funding was required should be identified, and that the increase of funding should be treated as a priority. It was suggested that the Shova Kalula project be expanded upon, that the wording in relation to the National Household Survey on the costs of transport to work be clarified, and that the Department should be asked to itemise its planned expenditure and geographical spread in the Masakhane campaign. A Master Plan should also be provided detailing integrated planning.
A Member questioned whether the adoption of this report would preclude him from raising objections to the budget, and was assured that this was not the case. The Chairperson and several Members clearly outlined that the Budget Vote was required, in terms of Parliamentary procedure, to be considered and adopted, and would then referred to the House for deliberation and voting, as otherwise the budget could not be considered and passed for the forthcoming year. This Committee was not debating the budget itself. Despite this assurance, four Members abstained from voting, but six voted in favour of the adoption of the Report.

Since the documents on the Legacy Report and on the transport issues arising from the State of the Nation Address had been received by Members only a short time before the meeting, these would be considered only at the next meeting.

The Committee adopted the Minutes of the meeting on 17 June.

Meeting report

Committee Report on Department of Transport (DOT) budget vote 33
The Chairperson noted that this Report had been drawn up after the Strategic Plan and Budget Vote briefing by the Department of Transport (DOT)

Mr M de Freitas (DA) asked why he had received this document only at such a late stage, commenting that he – and presumably other Members in the same position – had been given scant opportunity to read and digest the contents of all the documentation.

The Secretariat explained that one copy had been presented to the Chairperson for her comment, and that it had then been sent to all Members who had e-mail addresses.

The Chairperson afforded some time for Members to read through the document.

Mr E Lucas (IFP) directed the attention of the Members to the challenges listed in the Report. He noted that these were serious, and asked what was to be done about them. For instance, the question of rural infrastructure was raised. If this was inadequate or non-existent, then delivery of services to the poor could not be achieved.

Mr Lucas commented that at last the Department and taxi industry seemed to be on the same page, and he hoped that this would benefit the 2010 World Cup events.

Mr Lucas noted that the Department had requested R31 billion from National Treasury, but had in fact only received R1.3 billion. He wondered why there was this shortfall, and suggested that more attention should be focused on the percentage requested and received.

Ms N Ngele (ANC) said that under bullet point 3 there was reference made to the request for more funding. She suggested that the Department should make more funding a matter of priority.

Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC) referred to the comprehensive plan addressed on page 9, and felt this plan should be expanded upon.

The Chairperson said that the plan referred to Shova Kalula, a plan that every rural child who lived further than 5 kilometers from a school should be provided with a bicycle at State expense, in order to access his or her school more easily. She added that it was to be deprecated that there were currently no factories in South Africa manufacturing bicycles. Shova Kalula would therefore not lead automatically to job creation, although she was of the opinion that the lack of manufacturing capacity should be rectified so jobs could be created.

The Chairperson also noted that the Report, as currently phrased, did not make it clear that the  National Household Survey had revealed that ideally the cost of travel for any person between home and work should not be more than 10% of that person’s income. The survey, however, had found that for most poor families, costs of travel to and from work exceeded 10% of income.

The Chairperson then referred Members to page 10, bullet point 5. Former President Mandela had initiated the Masakhane campaign, which was an ongoing campaign, in terms of which existing reasonable infrastructure was to be maintained, whilst attention must also be given to installing and maintaining infrastructure wherever it was currently lacking. This aimed to close the gap between rich and poor. Over the past fifteen years there had not been enough attention paid by the Department to this policy, nor were the areas identified correctly, and many of the areas that had formerly enjoyed good road infrastructure had degraded. This Committee was now requiring the Department to itemise its planned expenditure, to make it manifestly clear how much of the budget would be apportioned to maintenance of existing infrastructure, and how much to the installation and maintenance of infrastructure, and in which provincial areas there was to be both installation and maintenance.

The Chairperson stated that the Department was required to produce a Master Plan on internal development planning, and a maximisation of reserves, so that successes and failures could be easily identified and monitored. She added that by now sewerage, piped water, electricity and access roads must all be provided simultaneously with the building of a school. There was to be integrated planning at all levels. She was heartened by the introduction of the Planning Commission, which she viewed as an attempt to overcome these deficiencies of the previous fifteen years.

Mr E Mlambo (ANC) said he felt the Committee must identify the issues, make recommendations to the Department and monitor the success of such recommendations. He too referred to bullet point 3, which merely noted a shortage of funds, without specifying the actual shortage or the purposes for which such funds were required. He added that without identification it was very difficult to follow up on this matter. He felt that the challenges as set out in the Report were in fact to be regarded as findings that the challenges be addressed.

The Chairperson explained that this wording was used because this Portfolio Committee was required, in terms of the Parliamentary Rules, to recommend the proposed budget to Parliament, which would then debate the issues. Without a recommendation from this Portfolio Committee the Budget could not be tabled in the House.

Mr P Poho (COPE) agreed with the Chairperson’s summary.

Mr de Freitas agreed, but said that those Members who were opposed to the budget or who were later instructed by their Caucus to oppose the budget or items on it should be allowed to reserve their rights to note and argue their opposition..

The Chairperson said that, as she understood it, Members would be able to do so at the Budget Vote on Friday. For today’s meeting, she asked whether the Committee would approve the Budget Vote Report with amendments, or whether any amendments to the wording were being proposed.

Mr Poho suggested adopting the Report together with amendments suggested by Members.

Mr De Freitas agreed, but requested that the final version of the Report be made available by the following day, so that they were aware of its contents, as he felt there were some glaring discrepancies in the draft.

The Chairperson said that she felt that Members were missing the point, and asked whether they wished to make observations and recommendations, or merely findings. She asked whether Members agreed with her observation that the Department had been slow to transform itself, when it was required to make affordable transport available to all South Africans, especially the poorest of the poor.

Mr Mlambo stated that the Department should further transform itself in order to capacitate speedy delivery of its objects.

Mr de Freitas then said that if the Committee agreed to pass the motion under the present heading, he would see it as misleading. He asked for a re-phrasing of the heading so that it was clear that the Committee was agreeing to the Report, and that such agreement did not include or infer agreement with the Budget.

Mr S Farrow (DA) pointed out that what was before Members was a Report on the Department’s report. It was not the budget, which was required to be passed in the House by the House.

Ms Khunou said that this document reflected that the Committee had seen the report. It was not  reporting on the Budget, and as such there was nothing wrong with the proposed procedure. The Budget was that drawn up by the Department, and was to be approved by the House in due course, if at all.

The Chairperson explained that the Committee was not deliberating on the Budget. There was provision for the recording of dissenting views at this stage.

Mr Farrow said that the Members of some parties were required to revert to their caucuses. He thought that certain items required further investigation. He said that information about the Department’s 13 subordinate entities was very scant, and there was in fact no information before the Committee as to whether such entities were compliant with the Auditor-General’s requirements. He thought that very detailed reports should be submitted.

Mr Farrow reiterated that this was a multi-party Committee. The Committee would accept or reject the budget vote. However, this did not bind individual members, and they would not be precluded from following their party caucuses’ stance.

Ms Ngele suggested that if the Committee should adopt the Budget Vote, it would be an adoption with all the amendments within the budget. The Committee needed to have all challenges identified, in order to perform its oversight role. She said that just as a car could not run without petrol, the Committee should accept the budget vote.

The Chairperson reiterated that the Portfolio Committee was required, in terms of Parliamentary Rules, to recommend the Budget, so that it could then proceed to the House for consideration, deliberation and voting. It was nothing more nor less than this.

Mr Lucas said that if he, as a Member of the Committee, adopted the Budget Vote it still remained for him to sell it to his Party at its caucus the next day.

Mr de Freitas suggests that the words “That this Report be adopted” be added to the heading.

The Chairperson stated that this was not the usual procedure. The Committee should clearly say that the Report was adopted. The Committee was not saying anything about the budget. It was the duty of the Committee to pass the budget vote. Those not in favour of it could either vote against it, or abstain from voting.

Ms N Khunou (ANC) asked what would happen if there was disagreement.

Mr De Freitas suggested a compromise.

The Chairperson said the Committee could not fail to do its duty merely because the DA was not in agreement.

Mr Farrow suggested that the word “passed” be deleted, for the Committee was not “passing” the Budget, and he personally could not agree to it being passed.

The Chairperson reminded Members that the Committee was not passing the Budget. It was merely passing the budget vote, with an onward recommendation to the House to deliberate and vote on it. She repeated that it was the responsibility and duty of the Committee to pass the Budget Vote Report, even if Members were totally in disagreement with the Budget proposals. She asked whether there was anyone in favour of the Report, and anyone against it.

Members did not respond.

Ms Newhoudt-Druchen said that this Committee was reporting to Parliament that the Committee accepted the report. She was disappointed that Members did not want to accept the proposal.

Members then proposed and seconded the adoption of the Committee’s Budget Vote Report. Messrs Poho, Lucas, De Freitas and Farrow abstained from voting. Six Members voted in favour of the resolution, which was duly passed.

The Chairperson then noted that the documents on the Legacy Report and on the transport issues arising from the State of the Nation Address had been received by Members only a short time before the meeting. These would be considered at the next meeting.

Adoption of Committee Minutes of 17 June 2009
Members unanimously adopted the Minutes of the meeting held on 17 June 2009, without amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.


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