Road maintenance standards: input by CSIR; SA National Roads Agency (SANRAL); Agrément SA; Departments of Transport and Public Works; Merchant Shipping (Safe Containers Convention) Bill [B31-2010]: voting

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14 March 2011
Chairperson: Ms N Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The submissions by the Departments of Transport and Public Works, the CSIR, the South African National Roads Agency Limited, and Agrément South Africa painted a depressing picture of the state of roads in South Africa. These entities all played an essential role in the development, certification, accreditation, and implementation of national road standards. The importance of the preventative maintenance of roads, rather than the mere fixing of potholes was emphasised. It was hoped that the Road Maintenance Grant and the Expanded Public Works Programme would ameliorate conditions.

The Department of Public Works had created over 200 000 work opportunities over the 2007 Medium Term Expenditure Framework through the Expanded Public Works Programme. In the 2010/11 financial year, more than 80 000 work opportunities had been created in the first two quarters and these road maintenance programmes were also being implemented in those provinces where they were not yet active. There was a strong focus from the Department of Transport to create more employment opportunities as well through this collaboration. 

Members appreciated the stronger focus on job creation and sustainability of communities by all the stakeholders in the development and maintenance of roads. They were concerned however by the quality of materials being used as this compromised service delivery. Inspections needed to be carried out more thoroughly and job creation should not interfere with quality of production. Members asked that more focus be on the preventative maintenance of roads, and not only on the fixing of potholes. This would help with saving costs in the long run. They agreed that the budget would not be adequate to address backlogs including developing and updating existing roads.

Meeting report

Opening remarks:
The Chairperson gave a short background to the reasons for this meeting. Road infrastructure was degrading at a rapid pace. There were too many potholes and government was losing a lot of money when having to pay out claims to motorists affected. This money could be better used for infrastructure. She admitted that money allocated by government for road maintenance was inadequate. In addition, the standards of materials used were either not adequate enough, or these standards were simply not enforced upon contractors. Government departments in all spheres needed to have a more hands-on approach. They should not simply sign invoices but also go to sites to inspect the quality of work done by providers.

The Chairperson emphasised that road maintenance should be aligned with job creation and skills development. Other departments that needed these skills and resources should also participate. These included the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Science and Technology. These departments could help in providing the necessary skills and training to empower the unemployed.

Department of Transport: presentation
Mr Prasanth Mohan, Director: Infrastructure, Department of Transport, spoke on the technical standards, guidelines and manuals used in the road construction and maintenance environment. He explained that there were three types of specifications that road engineers had to comply with. These were contractual, technical, and laboratory specifications. Contractual specifications outlined the general conditions of contracts published by the Committee of Land Transport Officials (COLTO). The technical specifications were a series of documents developed by various industries to guide the engineering of roads. The laboratory specifications were standards published by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and this focused on materials and test procedures.

Mr Mohan explained that the custodianship for the development and maintenance of national standards was with the SABS. The custodianship and funding for the development and maintenance of road infrastructure was with COLTO. Agrément South Africa was responsible for the assessment and certification of non-standardised construction products, systems, materials and components which were not fully covered by a SABS code of practice.

Mr Mohan then spoke about the inter-governmental coordination structure, which was the Roads Coordinating Body (RCB). RCB was established to streamline and co-ordinate service delivery planning and implementation. It consisted of the Department of Transport, Department of Public Works, South African Local Government Association (SALGA), SANRAL, Metropolitan Roads Authorities and Provincial Roads Authorities. The functions of the RCB included the coordination of road sector support, monitoring and evaluation of roads service delivery, to identify and schedule key areas and to provide oversight to specialist technical committees.

Mr Mohan outlined another coordination structure which came from the private sector. This was the Roads Pavement Forum (RPF). The RPF was a forum to share and exchange information and technology as well as to discuss issues of strategic importance to the roads construction industry. The forum provided a perspective of overarching strategic issues as it affected pavement engineering. It promoted best practice by coordination and linkage with other groupings as well as establishing task groups with specific national objectives.

Mr Mohan went on to give a summary of standards which outlined:
- Technical Recommendations for Highways (TRH series of documents)
- Technical Methods for Highways (TMH series of documents)
- Urban Transport Guidelines (UTG series of documents)
- SANRAL documents
- DOT documents
- SABS documents
- Other documents developed for the industry

Mr Mohan explained that how and when penalties were imposed on engineers and contractors was guided by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), general conditions and special conditions of the contracts. The challenges faced by the Department were that there was a lack of technical capacity in both government and the private sector. There had been a lack of investment and resources for the continuing updates of these documents by the Department of Transport. SANRAL and industry associations had been partially filling this gap, limited by their own space, capacity and resources. However, with the introduction of the Road Maintenance Grant, the Department was expected to update these relevant guidelines.

Department of Public Works (DPW) presentation
Mr Mandla Mabuza, DPW Deputy Director General: Projects, and Mr Stanley Henderson,DPW Deputy Director General: Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), gave a presentation on road maintenance, job creation, and potholes. Mr Mabuza said that DPW was not the Road Authority, however DPW accounted for roads within facilities under its custodianship. The roads constructed and maintained by the DPW were of low traffic volume within military bases, prisons, and other national government facilities.

Mr Mabuza explained the department’s approach on pothole repairs. The Department had elected pothole repairs as the catalyst for job creation, while assisting municipalities with the maintenance backlog on potholes. The Department had technical support from CSIR and Agrément South Africa to understand the complexities of the problem. CSIR was approached for the best technical approach on dealing with potholes and Agrément South Africa was to establish the availabilities of accredited material for pothole repairs.

Mr Mabuza explained that the method of repair would follow the CSIR guideline (slide 5). The specification of material will be in compliance with set standards and the engineer would give approval of the material before application by the contractor. To ensure quality assurance, all material used by the contractor would have a manufacturing certificate outlining material composition. The consultant resident engineer would be on site on a full time basis to ensure compliance to specifications. The Department would randomly conduct tests on completed repairs and both the Department and Road Authorities would have regular site meetings to discuss progress and contractual issues.

Mr Mabuza added that all repair work would have a twelve months guarantee period. The Department would retain a sum equal to 10% of contract value as retention. Within the period, the contractor would make good all defective work at their own cost. Every pothole identified and repaired would have an identity. He explained the Department had developed a stipend determination matrix for the pothole rehabilitation programme. They were looking to employ 400 beneficiaries in the programme, at a stipend of R90 per day for three days a week for a period of six months. This resulted in a monthly income of R1,080 per person. From these calculations it was found that the budget may allow the programme to extend beyond the 400 job opportunities proposed. The identification of further roads may be considered to extend the job opportunity beyond the six months.

Mr Henderson then continued the presentation by explaining the collaboration with National Department of Transport on the EPWP. He said the National Department of Public Works had been collaborating with the National Department of Transport on ensuring that work opportunities were maximised on the construction and maintenance of roads in a labour-intensive manner. A joint committee co-chaired by the National Department of Transport monitored the progress on EPWP on access roads on a quarterly basis. The quarterly meetings were attended by Provincial Roads Departments that gave presentations on the progress of the EPWP projects. The funding of the access roads was through the Infrastructure Grant to provinces. R3.0 billion had been ring fenced for EPWP access roads in the 2007 MTEF. Now R8.3 billion was further approved for the EPWP access roads in the 2010 MTEF.

Mr Henderson noted some achievements on the EPWP access roads programme: 224,000 work opportunities had been created over the 2007 MTEF with over 60,000km of road being constructed or maintained; 88,322 work opportunities had been created so far in the 2010/11 financial year considering reports for the 3rd and 4th quarter were still awaited. Road maintenance programmes similar to the Zibambele programme were being implemented in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga; the North West and Limpopo were also making plans to implement maintenance programmes that could create work opportunities.

South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) presentation
Mr Louw Kannemeyer, Road Network Manager: SANRAL, gave a presentation on road maintenance standards and the state of current roads in South Africa. The South African Road Network had an estimated total of 153,719kms of paved and 593,259kms of gravel road, with a total of 746,978kms of road across the country. He explained the state of roads of South Africa was in a very bad shape. The main reason for this was because of a lack of maintenance as well as the large amount of rainfall in many provinces. The drainage systems were inadequate and this resulted in standing water causing corrosion on the roads.

Mr Kannemeyer explained that almost 20% of the provinces paved roads were of a poor to very poor standard, and the international norm was only 10%. Of the provincial gravel roads, almost 50% were of a poor to very poor standard. He then gave a condition summary of all roads as well as the estimated backlog of strengthening and re-gravelling. Based on the allocation of the budget for 2010/2011 only 40.16% of what was required was budgeted for. The budget was inadequate in addressing the needs of maintenance as well as upgrading paved and gravel roads.

Mr Kannemeyer explained why this was happening. Pavement design was not sufficient and road deterioration was occurring due to traffic loading and the environment. South African pavement design had to be based on maintenance activities. If not, pavements would not last long. Pavement design was partly to blame for this problem. South African pavements were built on a design of using a low amount of waterproof layers. This made the quality of these pavements very poor, which resulted in breakage once water penetrated these areas for too long. This was happening in the rainfall zones of South Africa, which were around the Durban, Tzaneen, Mossel Bay, East London, and Gauteng areas.

Mr Kannemeyer showed pictures which illustrated the deterioration over time due to traffic loading and the environment. No preventative maintenance was being done, such as crack sealing, cleaning of drainage structures and the cutting of grass. The solution was not automatic pothole patching, as was being done currently in some areas. The potholes were the symptom not the cause. He went on to explain routine maintenance costs and the way to implement this.

Mr Kannemeyer concluded by explaining that 80% of the road network was older than the original 20 year design life. No preventative maintenance was done by authorities which meant that they were awaiting potholes. If the current budget allocations were only going to be spent on pothole repairs, then it would be totally insufficient to sustain the network. Adequate focus had to be put on preventative maintenance to prevent new potholes. All the guidelines were available but officials were not always aware of their existence or how to apply these. There was a need to ensure that appropriate technical skills were available at all government levels.  

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) presentation
Dr Philip Paige-Green, Chief Researcher, CSIR, said that the presentation was in response to three questions asked by the Committee at a previous meeting, which related to the mandate of the CSIR, the accreditation process, and how the CSIR related to adherence to standards and value for money. Mr Paige-Green explained that the object of the CSIR was to foster industrial and scientific development to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of the people of the Republic by carrying out research. The job of the CSIR was to identify, usually together with steering committees, problem areas in the road industry and carry out research to provide solutions.

Mr Paige-Green explained that, with regards to the second question about accreditation, the CSIR did not do any accreditation. This was done by the Agrément Board for selected products, usually in response to external requests. The CSIR often assisted with technical input but was not directly involved in the implementation of certain operations. With regards to the third question about the adherence of standards for road maintenance, this was not within the mandate of the CSIR. He explained that they were not directly involved in any routine operational issues. These operations were carried out by road authorities, most of whom CSIR had only informal relationships. CSIR assisted with specific problems of a non-routine type where appropriate on a contract research or an independent specialist consultant basis.

Mr Paige-Green said that, prior to the 1990s, nearly all provinces had Pavement Management Systems (PMSs) to assist with planning preventative maintenance. Over the past few years all authorities, except SANRAL, appeared to have abandoned their PMSs because they were time-consuming and relatively costly to keep updated and functional. This had resulted in a severe reduction in preventative maintenance leading to cracking of the bituminous surfacing and ultimately to the formation of potholes.

The CSIR was closely involved with the early development and installation of various PMSs in South and southern Africa. Some of these included the relevant operational manuals. Currently, CSIR was looking at simple, cheap and quick methods for rural access roads and roads in small municipal areas. This should perhaps be adapted for a larger road network. CSIR continued to improve and implement the Bridge Management System (BMS) both locally and internationally. CSIR was also developing a Slope Management System (SMS) for assessing the stability of road cuttings for strategic purposes. The aim was to ensure that there was always access to the coastal ports following extreme climatic events.

Mr Paige-Green added that over the past 20 or 30 years, the CSIR had also developed general guideline and synthesis documents under contract to various road authorities in South Africa and internationally that include references to maintenance and even methods where appropriate. These documents had been made available through the traditional and appropriate communication channels. Attempts to disseminate the information of these documents had been made, probably more successfully than many similar documents. However, despite the hype at and after the launch of the guideline documents, response to the training workshops being arranged by the South African Road Federation (SARF) had been limited.

Mr Paige-Green explained that of the original 12 countrywide workshops planned for February and March 2011, ten of these workshops had to be postponed due to insufficient interest from potential delegates. However, since the announcement of the S’hamba Sonke programme by the Minister on 15 February, interest seemed to have picked up and the number of registrations appeared to have improved. The CSIR together with SARF had held three workshops with another 13 planned in the next three months. These were aimed at NQF level 5 and higher. The Asphalt Academy was preparing training courses for the actual repair of potholes at NQF levels below 5.

Agrément South Africa presentation
Mr Joe Odhiambo, Chief Executive Officer, Agrément South Africa, gave a presentation to the Committee on the functions and mandate of the Agrément. This was in response to questions from a previous meeting. The word “Agrément” was a French word and it meant consent or approval. The mandate of Agrément came from the Minister of Public Works and the Board of Agrément South Africa, which was to support and promote the process of integrated socio-economic development in South Africa. Agrément South Africa had to facilitate the introduction, application and utilisation of satisfactory innovation and technology development and it was responsible for the certification of non-standardised construction products.

Mr Odhiambo explained that South Africa had a need for the delivery of improved infrastructure. Many products had been substandard, resulting in failures. The consumer needed to be protected from these substandard products. Also, government wanted to encourage innovation in the construction industry. Agrément certificates facilitated this process because the fitness for purpose had been objectively tested.

Mr Odhiambo went on to outline the:
- Organisational structure of Agrément South Africa
- Relationship between CSIR, Agrément South Africa and SABS
- Technical assessment and criteria
- Examples of accreditation
- Products undergoing evaluation

Mr Odhiabmo noted that Agrément South Africa was part of the World Federation of Technical Assessment Organisations (WFTAO). Agrément SA aimed to provide certification of environmental performance of construction products and systems. This was to increase awareness of sustainability issues within the construction industry and work with national and local governments to develop a common sustainability strategy.

The Chairperson said that the roles of different stakeholders had to be identified. In this meeting, not all questions would be answered with regards to skills development, technical management and overall job creation. The magnitude of the problem had to be recognised as well as how much financial resources would be adequate.

Mr S Farrow (DA) thanked Mr Kannemeyer from SANRAL for a good and honest presentation. Addressing the DPW, he said that the EPWP was commendable but they were not addressing the issue of drainage on the road surfaces adequately. Potholes were becoming very bad. He wanted to know whether the DPW was trying to fix this problem by supplying farmers with a premix compound to fill holes, as he had heard. This was not helping the problem as potholes just came back after a while. The DPW and SANRAL needed an agreement on how to fix roads properly and quality control needed to be enforced.

Mr Henderson said that he was not aware of this issue of farmers and asked that Mr Farrow supply him with the details after the meeting so that he could do a follow-up on this information.

Ms D Dlakude (ANC) said that she applauded the DPW with their strong focus on job creation. She also thought that considering retired engineers to join this cause was a good idea.

Mr M De Freitas (DA) commented that there was a grave reality at ground level. Looking towards job creation was a good thing, but the quality of maintenance and repair should not be compromised by the inexperience in training. Both aspects should be looked at thoroughly.

Mr Henderson said that there was no compromise on quality when it came to training and development. Monitoring and regular quality checks on the roads were in place.

Mr E Lucas (IFP) said that the problem started at the beginning, when roads were being constructed. Inspections were not done properly. In addition, when contractors bid for tenders, they would give a lower asking price resulting in the use of inferior materials. Therefore roads were not lasting long enough.

Mr Henderson said that a quality product was budgeted for in the awarding of tenders as well as the provision of labour. A lack of maintenance on roads was one of the reasons why the life spans of roads were so short.

The Chairperson commented that there was a lack of an integrated approach to look at other entities and departments in the EPWP by the DPW. Training institutions could be used to provide the necessary technical skills for unemployed youth. She wanted to know how these initiatives by the DPW would link to the establishment of co-operatives in the rural communities. For example, there was an initiative by the Department of Trade and Industry to provide a grant for equipment for these co-operatives starting out. Linking co-operative development would link responsibility and ownership in these communities. It was not a profit driven initiative, but rather social driven. She said that there should be a working relationship between the DPW and Further Education and Training (FET) colleges. The Committee needed to plan a summit on road maintenance for a holistic approach to address problems. Included in the summit should be the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Science and Technology so that they could come together to produce the scarce skills needed.

Mr Mabuza thanked the Chairperson and members for their comments. He said that this would continue to inspire the Department to work responsibly. Co-operatives were the future to address the social ills of society. Co-operatives instilled a sense of discipline and were developmental to young people. It would be wise for the Department to invest in young people for social security protection as well. Funding towards training had been secured through the Department of Labour but the details of these funds were not readily available. He said that in a future meeting the Department would have all the relevant details ready.

The Chairperson said there was an opportunity for improvement from both departments. The presentations made by the organisations showed that the easiest response to problems was not always the best solution. The repair of potholes would be an ongoing issue if preventative road maintenance was not done.

Merchant Shipping (Safe Containers Convention) Bill [B31-2010]: voting
Mr M Kweta, State Law Advisor, Department of Justice, read out the amendments to the Bill. At line 15 (page 1) it was proposed to remove “Part 1” and on page 6 line 3 it was proposed to remove “Part 1”. The reason for this was because there was only one part to the Bill, therefore there was no need to make reference to Part 1 and Part 2. Part 2 should be completely removed as it was not applicable to the Bill, as discussed in the previous deliberations on the Bill.

Members agreed with the proposed amendments and voted in favour of the Bill with amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

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