The Committee expressed its concern, at the start of the meeting, that the delegation from the Department of Transport included neither the Minister nor Deputy Minister of Transport, nor the Director-General of the Department. Two of the COPE representatives left the meeting, apparently in objection to being addressed by a more junior executive member. The Chairperson decided that although the Committee would lodge a formal complaint, the meeting would be permitted to proceed.
The Department of Transport’s (DoT) presentation on its strategic plan and budget centred on the DoT’s work around six outcomes, namely: an effective and integrated infrastructure network that served as a catalyst for social and economic development, a transport sector that was safe and secure, improved rural access, infrastructure and mobility, an improved public transport system, increased contribution towards job creation and an increased contribution of transport to environmental protection.
Members asked whether new roads would still be built after the 2010 World Cup Event, what would happen to any moneys remaining in this budget, and why rail was not being used significantly more, including in metropolitan areas. Members suggested that rather than investigating high-speed rail transport there should be a focus on upgrading the existing infrastructure and promoting use of rail for freight and passenger services. Members wondered if the National Department would intervene to sort out the problems in the provincial departments. Further questions were asked about use of weighbridges, the taxi recapitalisation programme, rural accessibility to public transport, transport for schoolchildren, the implementation of the Moloto project, and the Department’s efforts to encourage training in the necessary fields of engineers and artisans for the transport industry. Members called for detailed budget plans, noted that maintenance was an urgent issue, asked about the Department of Public Works’ responsibility for maintenance, and suggested that funding should be ringfenced for the maintenance on roads. Members asked for responses to matters of emphasis raised by the Auditor-General, questioned the transfers and subsidies allocations and the amounts for taxi recapitalisation, and asked that a further briefing be given on the ShovaKalula initiative at another meeting.
Chairperson and Committee’s opening remarks
The Chairperson expressed his disappointment that the Minister nor the Deputy Minister of Transport, nor the Director General of Department of Transport (DoT) was present to brief the Committee. He stated that the National Council of Provinces and the National Assembly should be accorded the same respect and that the accounting officer should be present to brief the Committee. If the DoT was prepared to only send a Deputy Director-General he would submit a complaint to the Minister. He said that he would not accept an address from a junior executive in the future.
Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) wanted to know why the Director-General was not present.
Ms Maria Koorts, Deputy Director-General in the DoT, said that the invitation to attend the meeting had only been received yesterday. She said the Director-General had other commitments, but that she could not speak for the Executive. She requested that more time be given to the Department to prepare for meetings of this nature in future.
Mr D Feldman (COPE, Gauteng) said that he was of the opinion that the meeting should be adjourned, adding that the briefing on certain sections need to be given by certain people, and suggested that the meeting could be properly conducted at a later date.
Mr Z Mlenzana (COPE, Eastern Cape) said that for all departments, attending oversight meetings was of such paramount importance that if the Director-General claimed that more pressing issues prevented attendance, this amounted to undermining the House. He said that he did not wish to open a debate over whether the invitation had been extended timeously or not, but said that it appeared that the DoT was not talking the Committee seriously. He said that it seemed that the DoT believed it only had to account to the NA.
Mr M Jacobs (ANC, Free State) objected to the arrogance and disrespect shown by the Deputy Director- General. He noted that the Committee’s approval was needed to pass the budget. He also said that the NCOP was of equal status to the NA.
Ms M Themba (ANC, Mpumulanga) said that prior communications relating to this meeting had been sent well before 13 April. However, she was of the opinion that the Committee, whilst expressing its displeasure, should nonetheless hear the presentation.
Mr Tau was also of the opinion that the presentation should be conducted.
The Chairperson said that the Members’ objections would be conveyed to the relevant parties but that the meeting would continue as planned.
Ms Koorts extended apologies on behalf of the DoT.
The two representatives of COPE walked out of the meeting, apparently in objection to the meeting continuing in the absence of members of the executive.
Department of Transport (DoT) Strategic Plan and budget 2010/11
Ms Maria Koorts, Deputy Director General, Department of Transport, proceeded to brief the Committee on the DoT’s strategic plan. She said that the outline of the Strategic Plan rested on national government priorities, ministerial priorities, the planning process, departmental outcomes and lastly, departmental outputs and key activities.
National government priorities included the creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods, education, health, rural development and associated priorities of food security and land reform, the fight against crime and corruption, and environmental protection.
Ministerial priorities including improving rural access and mobility interventions, public transport interventions, transport safety and security, infrastructure development, high-level plan for transport, transport integration and the 2010 World Cup delivery platform.
The planning process followed an outcomes-based management model in developing the strategic agenda and was approved by the Presidency and the National Treasury. In the process of review, organisational design would ensure effective intervention.
Key service delivery issues included how to ensure that the DoT would become the transport value chain. She stated that the service delivery model was being reviewed and the structure was being revised. Inter-sphere planning was being integrated.
Another key issue identified was whether the DoT was being under funded. She said that the DoT had received some extra funding but the funding remained low, including the baseline funding.
Ms Koorts then identified the outcomes that were the responsibility of the Department. It had to ensure an effective and integrated infrastructure network that served as a catalyst for social and economic development. It must ensure that the transport sector was safe and secure, must strive for improved rural access, infrastructure and mobility, an improved public transport system, increased contribution towards job creation and increased contribution of transport to environmental protection
She then proceeded to briefly mention the highlights of each outcome.
Under the theme of ensuring an effective and integrated infrastructure network, she noted that this would include enhancing the competitiveness of the transport sector. This would entail research on the cost of doing business. Key transport facilities would need to be developed, which would include finalising the future of Durban International Airport. Cato Ridge would also be developed. Improved trade, logistics and passenger movement across borders was also identified as a priority. She said that South Africa did not have a fully capacitated border presence and that this was a concern. She stated that if DoT, in order to meet expectations, was to have a proper border presence, then further funding would be needed.
Maintenance of critical roads needed to be improved and Ms Koorts said that the Road Maintenance Fund was established for this purpose. Developing and upgrading passenger rail corridors was also identified as a priority. Various funding was possible for the Johannesburg-Durban speed train and the DoT was examining the feasibility of a Johannesburg-Cape Town Speed train. She said it currently took about 8 hours, and 23 hours respectively to travel by rail between these destinations and the Department was considering the feasibility of shortening this period. The Moloto rail project was stated to be a primary focus
The DoT was looking at the development of a model for optimum cartage. She said that at the moment, most cargo was transported by roads instead of rail, contributing to the overburdening of South African roads. DoT was considering extending the provision of roads to the private sector. She gave an illustrative example of an abnormal load that might need to travel between Saxonburg and Richards Bay, which could only travel along one road. If this road was under construction, another road would have to be used, but this alternative route would not be equipped to handle abnormal loads, and the DoT would not be able to prevent it being used. Therefore, some sort of integrated plan and partnership would be vital. Since the primary user would be the private sector, this sector would need to be brought on board.
On the issue of sea and air freight services she said these were in line with existing strategies and in the past years the DoT had introduced the National Ports Act.
In regard to the second outcome of ensuring a safe and secure transport sector, Ms Koorts said that the matter of road safety councils had not yet been finalised, but were a priority for the 2009 /10 financial year. Funding constraints would affect the DoT’s ability to get this off the ground, but she said that the Department would nevertheless like to give it emphasis.
In regard to the Road Accident Fund (RAF), she said that the amendments had been found by the courts not to conflict with the Constitution. The amendments limited the amounts that could be claimed for salary loss (currently around R172 000), and limited claims for general damages (awarded for pain and suffering) to claimants who had also experienced serious injury. She said that the system was still based on the fault system so awards were not made to those who were responsible for accidents but that the new system envisaged a no fault basis.
As to maritime safety she stated that the DoT was developing a new ship clearance system and that the DoT would be more interventionist on this issue in future.
She said that some maritime legislation was implemented last year. This was an expert field and that there was a need to align it with international standards. The Bills currently under consideration were the Maritime Security Bill and Merchant Shipping Bill.
On the issue of air transport, she said a new aviation safety investigation body was established.
In regard to Outcome 3: improved rural access, infrastructure and mobility, Ms Koorts noted that this included issues relating to non-motorised transport. She said that the departmental focus was in rural areas and on socio-economic issues.
In regard to the attempts to implement an improved public transport system, Ms Koorts said that, in regard to taxi recapitalisation, a programme where a certain number of taxis were required to be recapitalised over a certain number of years was open to manipulation, when faced with budgetary constraints. However, she was happy to say that the DoT had reached all of its objectives in the previous years. She said there was a need to look again at the objectives and that there were still a number of issues that still needed to be dealt with.
She said that a command centre for the co-ordination of 2010 World Cup transport had created and established.
With regard to enabling increased job creation, Ms Koorts noted that some public entities under the aegis of the DoT would be able to contribute towards job creation but that others would have limited impact. Regulatory bodies had training programmes for professionals in line with empowerment policies. She said that there was an international scarcity of skills required, not just in the case of trainees but also trainers. The DoT had succeeded in establishing a training forum for pilots, but had had less success with a similar programme for maritime environments.
The sixth outcome related to an increased contribution by the transport sector to environmental protection. DoT was developing a response to the challenges posed to transport by climate change and was looking at energy efficient forms of transport, which was a new priority for the DoT.
Mr H Groenewald (DA) thanked Ms Koorts for her presentation. He noted that significant investments had been made in road and rail in anticipation of the World Cup, and asked whether new roads would still be built after this event, and whether it would be a priority for the DoT.
Ms Koorts replied that for the 2009/10 financial year, preparations for the World Cup were the focus of infrastructure development. For the following financial year, the focus would shift to rural development.
Mr Groenewald noted that the move away from the use of rail was a contributing factor to the condition of the roads. He asked why the use of rail transport had not increased.
Ms Koorts said that she shared the same sentiment, that rail rather than road should be the primary mover of cargo. However, it would not be easy to change.
Mr Groenewald said that the North-West had experienced serious problems in its provincial transport department, leading to the removal of the provincial Head of the Department. He asked whether the National DoT would intervene.
Ms Koorts replied that the DoT nationally was engaging with the process but that the implementation and monitoring of plans would be left to the provinces. However, if they failed to adhere to expectations, there would be a national intervention again.
Mr Groenewald said that weighbridges were not mentioned at all and asked how many were in South Africa and whether they were optimally used.
Ms Koorts replied that there 119, of which 81 were operational.
The Chairperson requested a breakdown of figures for the taxi recapitalisation programme, specifically how many had been destroyed and how many were waiting to be destroyed.
Ms Koorts replied that about 10 000 of the old vehicles had been destroyed and another 1 000 were to be destroyed. She said the intention was to ensure that taxis were an integral part of the public transport sector and adequately and safely built.
Mr M Jacobs (ANC) wanted to know what would happen to additional funding allocated for 2010 projects after the World Cup. He specifically wished to know whether this would be redirected towards other projects or whether it would be returned to the National Treasury.
Ms Koorts replied that additional funding for the World Cup was linked to over expenditure. She said that to answer this question she would need to know what the FIFA directives were.
Mr Jacobs said that with an increase in taxis and trucks, the use of railways was declining. In light of this, he asked whether the focus should not be on the use of railways in metropolitan areas rather than long-distance travel and freight.
Mr R Tau (ANC) expanded on this, saying that commuters could not be expected to use public transport if it was unreliable. There was a need to improve existing infrastructure first before focusing on “speed trains”, which he felt was a project which could be reserved for a later date.
Ms Koorts replied that encouraging the use of rail had been a challenge for a number of years and that there was a need to make rail attractive to passengers. There was a need to investigate why trains were frequently running late, whether it was due to infrastructure or human factors. She also said that it their needed to be a study as to whether trains were safer as such information was not currently available.
Mr Jacobs enquired about rural accessibility to public transport, noting that rural development was a key priority of government but seemed to be lacking in the DoT’s plans.
Ms Koorts replied that rural accessibility was a key priority. She said that there was a need to ensure that in every rural area, there was a road to every single public service outlet and that there should be no rural child that did not have access to at least one form of public transport to school.
Ms Themba enquired how long it would take before the Moloto project would be implemented, saying that the evaluations involved appeared to be endless.
Ms Koorts replied that the Moloto project had been allocated R20 million. In the DoT’s budget this was reflected as an additional project. She said that Treasury approval was still needed and support from the Committee in this instance would be helpful.
Ms M Themba (ANC) said that the DoT had identified a shortage of engineers and artisans and wanted to know what the DoT was doing to encourage this as a profession amongst learners.
Ms Koorts replied that the DoT was working together with other departments and clusters to train people. She said their emphasis was on training individuals within the framework of DoT utilities and entities. This was a strong focal point for the Department.
Mr Tau said that he thought the COPE members’ walkout must be noted on the record.
Mr Tau said that the strategic plan had been given, but enquired how this could be achieved without a “rands and cents” plan, providing allocations to various projects.
Mr Sibanda echoed the call for detailed budget plans.
A budgetary document was distributed to the members (see attached documents marked “Budget 1” and “Budget 2”).
Mr Tau said that road maintenance was an urgent issue and wondered if funds could not be ringfenced for this purpose.
Ms Koorts agreed and that she supported ring fencing budgets. She said that this was echoed by the Minster of Transport, and that this was already done at a provincial level for education and health budgets. There was also a need to establish a maintenance agenda.
The Chairperson noted that the Auditor-General had awarded the Department an unqualified audit certificate for the tenth consecutive year. However, he did raise some issues of concern. Firstly, he said that the Auditor-General had identified unauthorised expenditure to the amount of R850 million to pay outstanding bus subsidies, which was reflected as overspending. Secondly, he said that procurement procedures were not followed. Thirdly, he said the Auditor-General had highlighted wasteful expenditure incurred by a failure to cancel accommodation and flight tickets timeously. He asked for a response to these issues.
Ms Koorts replied that all unauthorised expenditure was for bus subsidies. The DoT was engaging with the National Treasury at the highest possible level. She stated that the National Treasury had failed to provide adequate funding. She said that procedures had now been tightened to ensure that money would not be wasted on cancelled tickets and accommodation
The Chairperson asked whether the DoT was monitoring scholar transport, noting that many children in rural areas still had to walk long distances to reach school.
Ms Koorts replied that this was an issue of concern, but that unfortunately there was no formal programme to monitor the provision of scholar transport.
Mr Tau noted that the budget was R24 billion. He asked whether maintenance of building and fixed structures was not the responsibility of the Department of Public Works (DPW). He asked what role DPW would play if the DoT spent money on fixed structures.
Ms Koorts responded that the reference to buildings in the budget was for rent, not maintenance. The former was the responsibility of the DoT, while DPW was responsible for the latter.
Mr Tau said that taxi recapitalisation was being phased out, suggesting that less money would be required, yet the budget indicated an increase for this project. He asked for an explanation.
Mr Tau asked what was meant by the “transfers and subsidies” allocation in the budget
Ms Koorts responded that this was for public entities under the aegis of the DoT, which were not self-funded. This applied to eight entities, or nine if SANRAL was included. These entities would make an application to the DoT and funds would be transferred to them.
The Chairperson said that he was not clear on the Shovakalula project and requested further information.
Ms Koorts replied that the Shovakalula project was an integrated programme across all nine provinces. However, this would be better addressed in full in a dedicated meeting at a later date.
The meeting was adjourned.
[PMG Note: The remainder of the report will follow later]
- SC PService: Briefing by the Department of Transport on its Strategic Plan & Budget Vote No 36 Part 2
- SC PService: Briefing by the Department of Transport on its Strategic Plan & Budget Vote No 36 Part 1
- SC PService: Briefing by the Department of Transport on its Strategic Plan & Budget Vote No 36 Part 1
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