PC Transport: Consideration of Outstanding Committee Reports

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13 March 2012
Chairperson: Ms N Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee tabled and discussed three draft Reports of the Committee. The first related to the Oversight Visit to the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and North West. Members felt that the Report needed to be more specific and that timeframes for implementation of each of the Committee’s recommendations by the Department should be included. A Member raised a query about rural road maintenance, since the Committee had been told that no upgrading of gravel roads would be considered unless the road was used by a minimum number of cars. In discussion, other members pointed out that if this was a Departmental policy, it was surely at odds with the intention to develop the rural areas, and also suggested that the needs of rural dwellers were not being considered on an equal footing to the needs of urban dwellers. It was clear that there was lack of alignment between budget, equipment and work produced. For this reason, Members also felt that the Department and the local government should be asked to provide a breakdown and to specify exactly what should be achieved by a specified time. It was clear that there was often a mismatch between the needs and the allocations, particularly when these were based on population numbers, and the allocations also did not take into account the backlogs in certain areas. They also highlighted the need to check what exactly Service Level Agreements said and how they translated to action on the ground. Members agreed that they would raise the need to amend the current policy and would incorporate some comments into the Report prior to its adoption.

The Committee deferred the adoption of the Committee’s Report of the Sihamba Sonke Programme in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape to the next meeting.

The Committee briefly discussed the Committee’s Report on the Oversight Visit to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), highlighting the need for the country to promote the maritime industry, which had been dealt a severe blow in 1993 by the sale of 57 ships. However, SAMSA had proposed new strategies and had stated that these could create 450 000 jobs, whilst there was further potential that could be tapped from nearly 2 000 ships a day in South African waters. Furthermore, there was a need to address the potential for shipbuilding and repair yards. Another Member suggested that South Africa also needed to capitalise on the potential of marine biodiversity and fisheries. The Committee would examine the strategy proposed by SAMSA before adopting the report.

The Committee also considered and adopted the Minutes of 28 February 2012.

Meeting report

Committee Draft Report on the Oversight Visit to North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces
The Chairperson tabled the draft Committee Report on the oversight visit to North West, KwaZulu Natal (KZN) and Eastern Cape provinces (the Report).

Mr L Suka (ANC) noted that, under the recommendations section in all three reports, there were no specifics on the timeframes within which the Department should execute the recommendations. For example, on point 6.3 on page 16 of the Report, it was stated that there should be a single model for road maintenance that should be implemented throughout the whole country, but no timeframe was given as to when that should apply. He also added that under point 6.3.2, this Committee should specifically urge the establishment of the Project Management Unit, and specify a time frame within which that must be done. He felt that, in general, the Committee’s reports needed to be worded more tightly.

Ms D Dlakude (ANC) supported Mr Suka's points. She also added that the Committee, after doing oversight, should return to the provinces, say within three months, to check whether the recommendations were being implemented. A failure to implement would mean that the same problems would recur. She thought that, in general, the Report was a true reflection of the oversight visit. Whilst she agreed with Mr Suka that timeframes should be added in, she did not think that anything further needed to be added.

Ms N Ngele (ANC) noted that there were problems with gravel roads and challenges with machinery and equipment, which meant that it could take up to four years to fix the roads. For this reason, she would support the recommendation of Ms Dlakude to return regularly to check implementation. Failing this, the provinces would simply assure the Committee that things would be attended to, but people on the ground would never see the improvements.

The Chairperson noted that there had been comments on the recommendations and follow-up visits. She suggested that the Committee should rather look at the findings. She thought that the positive aspects needed to be separated out from the negative; there were challenges that needed a response either from this Committee or the Department of Transport (DOT or the Department), and consideration of the budget allocations. The issue of the formula to be used for resource allocations was directly linked to the backlog. The roles and responsibilities of Members of this Committee must be considered. If Members found that budget was problematic, then the Committee must consider how to resolve that issue. Important questions had been asked, by both the ANC and opposition Members, that pointed to gaps in policy. For instance, a question had been asked on the existing policies for upgrading gravel rural roads to black top roads, which elicited the answer that a gravel road could be upgraded only if 200 cars were using it, which showed a mismatch between existing policy and socio-economic development objectives. In such a situation, Members of this Committee should initiate a process to review or overhaul that policy. The Department implemented policies, but this Committee was in a position to identify policy gaps, through its visit to provinces. Some of the issues raised on page 13 of the Report dealt with maintenance of municipal roads. Most municipalities had a minimum road maintenance budget, staff and equipment. The eLundini case study showed that up to 80% of rural access roads could not be maintained because they had no gravel.

Mr Suka agreed with the Chairperson, adding that the issues went even further because of service level agreements with various local municipalities. He would be keen to see exactly what those service level agreements (SLAs) said, because no impact was seen. The entire paragraph running from page 13 into page 14 talked about the SLAs, but there was no sense of what they achieved, and how they translated to actual work. The Committee’s starting point in oversight should be firstly to recognise the minimal budget of R1.6 million, then to ask what roads were identified, and whether any work was done with the minimal equipment. When the Committee did oversight, it would match the budget, the equipment and the work done. He suspected that “SLA” was a buzzword, and it was likely that consultants and a programme manage would be hired, and even if this programme manager were to coordinate, this meant that the issues were not actually dealt with at ground level. That was why he was insisting upon timeframes, to check if the programme managers had set up the programme of coordination.

Ms Ngele also quoted that the eLundini case study showed that up to 80% of rural access roads could not be maintained because “they had no gravel”. She asked what exactly this sentence meant.

The Chairperson responded that the sentence meant that there was no quarry in the area from which gravel could be obtained, with the result that 80% of gravel infrastructure in eLundini could not be maintained. Even if this area had equipment, staff and a budget, there would still be a problem with raw materials.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee’s reports should be very clear. For instance, the reasons why the provincial officials had said that municipal roads could not be maintained should be set out in clear, numbered bullet points. If the officials did not have the required resources, the recommendations that the Committee made should point specifically to this, and try to come up with a solution. If the officials did not think that there was a solution, then the Members of this Committee should initiate a process to find a possible solution, either by recommending that the Department of Transport must investigate further, or looking at what had been done in other regions or countries who experienced similar problems. A problem could not merely be stated without this Committee proposing what had to be done.

Mr M Duma (ANC) asked if the role of maintaining roads in municipalities that had no quarries could not be given to the district council or the provincial government itself. In that case, the province would be responsible for providing gravel.

The Chairperson explained that this came down to the division of powers and functions. Where a rural municipality had no revenue base, and had poor gravel roads, compared with the good roads in wealthy urban areas, then the question must be asked whether the poor and wealthy municipalities’ functions were in line with their capacity, and with what they received from their own financial resources and the equitable share formula. If the formula was retarding the progress, and was not enabling municipalities to carry out their functions, it was then up to the national sphere of government either to amend the allocation of resources or bring the functions in line with the resourcing, in order to address the problems.

Mr Suka aligned himself with the comments on the funding model. The Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) model did not look to the question of the backlog that the Chairperson had raised, as this model was based on future assumptions, ignoring the backlog in provinces and rural municipalities. He thought that there had to be a more robust interrogation of the budget. There should be a distinction between the various funds which went to local municipalities or district municipalities, and to the different provinces, because many were badly compromised. Provinces had done an audit of their gravel roads, and a 2003 report into the state of gravel roads had highlighted the percentage of gravel rural roads, countrywide, that were not up to scratch, but that report had been silent when it came to questions of funding and how to bring those programmes to a better level. He believed that the funding model had to be looked at seriously, and the funding should follow clear plans by the various local municipalities.

Ms Dlakude agreed with her colleagues. However, she noted that in the past the budgets had been allocated according to population numbers. She agreed that it was also necessary to look at the backlog. She added that the provincial departments and municipalities needed also to move away from using consultants, as they were consuming far too much of the budget that should be put to improving the infrastructure on the ground. It was crucial that the provincial department and local municipalities have skilled personnel, like engineers. There was a need for South Africa, as a developmental state, to change matters around, not to rely on consultants, but to be an implementing government. She would not like, for example, to see R1 million of a R2 million budget in Mpumalanga being paid to consultants, for that provincial department would simply not achieve what it needed to achieve. Technical personnel were required in every department to actually implement, rather than having people who were desk-bound and employed others to do the real work.

Mr E Lucas (IFP) stated that it should surely be known where the existing gravel on roads had been sourced, when the road was first built. This would allow the Department now to ascertain how far away gravel could be sourced, and how much it would cost to get it from point A to point B. He was not sure whether rural roads fell under the function of a district; he had thought that rural roads fell under the district, and municipal roads fell under the municipality, with certain defined demarcation points.

Ms Dlakude said that if there was a Departmental policy that stated that 200 cars must be using a road before it could be properly maintained was surely incorrect; rural people had exactly the same rights as those in urban areas. There was a need to develop rural areas and encourage more people to live there. Some people did not want to migrate to the cities, so it was necessary to upgrade areas, and even to create new towns and townships in those areas, rather than continuing with old apartheid development. She stressed again that this particular policy should be changed.

The Chairperson noted that Members were speaking to the core issues and noted the proposal to change the current policy, and replace it with a policy that was in line with the current socio-economic development aims of the South Africa.

Ms Ngele agreed with the Chairperson. She asked what point there was in anyone purchasing a car if there were no proper roads.

Mr Suka also agreed with the need to review or change that policy.

Mr Lucas agreed that the issue had to be tackled throughout the country. This had not been the position in the past, where services were provided even to remote farms, including tarred roads.

The Chairperson noted that this Committee would task the Committee Researcher with finding that policy and the Committee could then initiate the process for its repeal.

Mr Duma suggested that the Committee needed to meet with district municipal officials who were involved in road infrastructure, and ask them about their plans for rural roads. Planning was a vital issue.

Ms Dlakude noted that the Committee was of the same mind and now merely needed to change the mindset of the Department of Transport, the district municipalities and ministers. What this Committee was proposing would be to the benefit of all South Africans.

The Chairperson noted that this meeting had been very important, in reflecting upon issues. However, she noted that the Committee could not adopt the Report at present, and would initiate the process of changing the Departmental policy.

Committee’s draft Report of the Sihamba Sonke Programme in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape
This report was deferred for adoption at a later meeting, to allow Members to go through the recommendations and to come up with other recommendations.

Committee’s draft Report on the Oversight Visit to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)
The Chairperson noted that in 1993, the then-South African government sold 57 ships that were owned by South Africa. Now, there was an intention to focus on building up the maritime industry. It had been calculated that between now and 2022, it was possible to create 450 000 jobs in the maritime industry, if the country followed and focused on the strategy that the South African Maritime Safety Association (SAMSA) was proposing. She noted that in one day, 1 900 ships travelled on South African seas, bringing in goods of more than 200 million tons. South Africa was not presently capitalising on this.

She noted a recent report about an accident in Ngquga port, where a crane had fallen on top of containers that were being offloaded, causing damage to the ship. There were no shipyards in South Africa to repair and maintain the ship, which was then taken to a port in another country. South Africa had missed out on an important opportunity for job creation. She believed that this Committee should focus on maritime transportation and pave the way for South Africa to play a meaningful role, and take advantage of opportunities in the maritime industry, including various avenues for skills development. She noted that the Committee would be attending a strategic planning workshop on 16 and 17 March. The Committee must be particularly sharp when dealing with the presentations from the Department of Transport and its entities, and look at how these presentations related to the challenges that South Africa was seeking to address.

Mr Duma agreed that the present policies did not take advantage of the numerous opportunities that South Africa’s long coastline presented for job creation and the fight against poverty and unemployment. If South Africa had maximised maritime opportunities, it could have been one of the best countries in the world and provided many other opportunities to the rest of Africa for using the sea. It was also unfortunate that issues of marine biodiversity were not being fully explored; in fact it was not South Africans, but foreigners, who were participating in this field. Fisheries that were taking South African resources were also mostly foreign, and this was preventing South Africans from becoming involved in this industry.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee needed to look at the strategy that was proposed by SAMSA before adopting the report.

Minute adoption
The Committee adopted the minutes of 28 February 2012.

The meeting was adjourned.


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