The Committee considered and adopted as amended its Draft Report on the Budget Vote 37 and Strategic Plan of the Department of Transport. Members took the opportunity to make certain observations and recommendations on certain issues pertaining to the Department. The Committee hence agreed that the Director General needed to appear before the Committee and address the following issues:
- The restructuring of the Department was taking too long as the process had already started in 2009
- Unfilled vacancies within the Department had to be filled with competent people.
- The Department was utilizing too many consultants. The work should be done by Department officials. Why was engineering skills lacking in the Department? The Department should be an engineering competent department.
- The Committee was concerned that the Scholar Transport Policy was taking too long to be finalised.
- Members also felt that the outcomes of the Department were not complete and that the process on it should be speeded up.
- An explanation was also needed on the shifting of funds that had taken place on Programme 2: Integrated Transport Planning and why there was a huge cut in funding to Programme 4: Road Transport
- Related to Programme 4 an explanation was needed on why for example were roads in such dire state in the North West Province and near Harding in Kwazulu-Natal.
- The Chairperson recommended that SA should reinvest in maritime transport in line with the new growth path.
- A further recommendation was that the Department should relook at the mandate of Sanral which showed a bias towards the development of urban road infrastructure at the expense of rural.
Draft Report of the Portfolio Committee on Transport on the Budget Vote 37 and the Strategic Plan of the Department of Transport
The Chairperson stated that the Committee needed to adopt the Draft Report in order for it to be debated in the House. She asked whether members had read the Report.
Mr I Ollis (DA) stated that he had only received the draft Report that very morning.
Ms Valerie Carelse, Committee Secretary, responded that the Draft Report had been placed in Members’ pigeon holes the previous day.
The Chairperson nevertheless allocated 30 minutes for members to read the Draft Report.
After 30 minutes the Committee proceeded to deal with the Draft Report.
The Chairperson referred to page 1 of the Draft Report and stated that before the paragraph stating the mandate of the Department of Transport, the Draft Report should first capture the centrality of the Department in terms of its social and economic development. Another option would be to include it under the section containing the mandate.
Mr L Suka (ANC) wished to confirm that the Chairperson wanted to define what the Department was before stating its mandate in the Draft Report.
The Chairperson noted that the Department should be defined as the heartbeat for social and economic development. This did not come out in the Draft Report at present.
Mr Ollis agreed with the Chairperson. The Department of Transport provided infrastructure for social and economic development in SA.
The Chairperson agreed with the manner in which Mr Ollis stated her sentiments.
On page 2, mention was made about the restructuring that the Department was going through. The Chairperson wished that the Draft Report should reflect that the Committee observed the restructuring process of the Department to be too slow.
Mr Suka proposed that the Committee set timeframes for the Department to complete its restructuring.
The Chairperson stated that it was not possible for the Committee to set timeframes in terms of the rules of Parliament but what it could do was to raise it as an issue within the Draft Report. The Department of Transport could surely not take forever to restructure itself.
Mr Suka suggested that a timeframe of within a financial year be set for the Department to complete its restructuring.
The Chairperson reiterated that it was not possible to set timeframes.
Ms D Dlakude (ANC) stated that the delay in restructuring was affecting service delivery.
The Chairperson stated that for starters the Draft Report could reflect that the restructuring was taking too long.
Ms N Ngele (ANC) stated that the Department needed to be shaken up. If timeframes could not be set what else could the Committee do.
The Chairperson suggested that the issue should be taken to the Whippery. Those members who were in the Whippery should bring up the issue in the Whips Committee. It would guide the Committee on what course of action it could take. Not being able to set timeframes for the Department to complete its restructuring was hampering the work of the Committee.
Mr Ollis stated that it was technically true that the Committee could not set timeframes for the Department to complete its restructuring. In the same manner in which the Standing Committee on Public Accounts held individuals accountable the Committee could call on the Minister of Transport, the Director General and other Department officials to account as to why the restructuring was taking so long. The Committee had powers at its disposal. It could set a timeframe within which the Minister or Director General had to appear before the Committee to speak on the issue.
The Chairperson agreed that a timeframe could perhaps not be set for the completion of the restructuring but a timeframe could be set within which the Department had to answer. Not being able to give the Department a deadline for the restructuring was affecting the oversight work of the Committee.
Mr Suka agreed to raise the issue with the Whippery.
The Chairperson noted that the issue was an observation by the Committee and hence a requisite recommendation should also be included in the Draft Report.
Mr Ollis stated that the Committee could request the Minister and the Department to complete the restructuring process urgently and that they had to report to the Committee by a certain date.
The Chairperson stated that within the Draft Report it was reflected as if the restructuring process was complete.
Ms Carelse agreed that it would seem that the restructuring process was complete.
Mr Sipho Dibakwane Policy Analyst, Department of Transport, responded that the Department’s new structure came into place on the 1 November 2011.
The Chairperson reacted that the new structure of the Department also spoke to the filling of vacancies. When the Committee had met with the Department’s human resources officials’ Members were informed that there were vacancies. The Department of Transport was an engineering competent department but yet skills of the kind required were not seen.
Mr Dibakwane stated that when the new structure came into place a more modal approach was followed. Regarding the filling of vacancies, over the last few months vacant posts had been advertised.
The Chairperson asked whether a maritime competent deputy director general had been appointed. The new structure was perhaps good but vacancies needed to be filled.
Mr Dibakwane noted that it was difficult to say whether there was a competent, skilled person in a particular post in the Department.
The Chairperson reiterated that human resources officials from the Department had earlier in the year informed the Committee that there were vacancies within the Department. The Department of Transport was supposed to be an engineering competent department. If it was, it would do away with the need for consultants. Consultants were being used to perform work which was supposed to be done by Department officials. Consultants cost the Department huge sums of money. There was a double expense in that Department officials and consultants were being paid for work which officials should be doing. The Department needed to report back to the Committee on the issue of restructuring and the filling of vacancies in terms of the new organogram with relevant engineering skills.
Ms Carelse stated that the process on the Draft Report was that it should go to the Speaker of the House and thereafter to the Department. The process took plus minus 2-3 months. The Department would most probably be able to report back to the Committee before the end of the current financial year.
The Chairperson stated that it was acceptable that the Department report back to the Committee before the end of the financial year on the issue of whether vacancies had been filled with adequately skilled engineering persons.
Mr Ollis wished the Draft Report to reflect the exact date which was the end of the current financial year ie March 2013.
The Chairperson stated that the restructuring of the Department had started in 2009. It had taken the Department 4 years to restructure.
Mr Dibakwane noted that when President Zuma’s administration took office, the Department seemed to take a new approach to follow. This however did not mean that existing projects of the Department were discontinued. The restructuring of the Department had taken place whilst work was being done.
The Chairperson stated that Mr Dibakwane should not defend something which could not be defended. A departmental restructuring could not take 4 years. She stated that the Auditor General had labeled the Department as having unclear and unreasonable objectives. Specific measurable objectives were needed.
Even though the Draft Report spoke to the outcomes of the Department members were not convinced that they had been achieved or finalised. Specific mention was also made of the Scholar Transport Policy (STP) and why the policy had not been finalised.
Mr Dibakwane stated that the STP only needed approval but from the masses point of view the Policy was completed.
The Chairperson stated that it took forever to develop the STP. There was apparently underspending in the Policy Development Unit. She however felt that there was not underspending in the Unit but rather underperformance. The development of the STP could not take 4-5 years. How could the STP be held back by consultants?
Mr Ollis pointed out that having only Mr Dibakwane present to face questions by members was not getting the Committee anywhere. It was best to move on.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee was in agreement that the outcomes of the Department were not complete.
Mr Suka pointed out that the Committee had made the finding that the Department’s outcomes was a serious concern and that the Committee recommended that the Department speed up the process to meet its outcomes. She asked that this be included in the Draft Report
Mr P Mbhele (COPE) stated that Mr Suka’s aforementioned recommendation should be included under recommendations made by the Committee in the Draft Report.
The Committee moved on to the portion of the Draft Report which dealt with the Department’s Budget Analysis.
Mr Suka pointed out that if the budget of the Department was R38bn why did the major transfers only add up to R34.5bn. Where did the remainder of the funds go to? The Department needed to qualify where the rest of the funds went to. He was also concerned that huge amounts of money were being spent on consultants.
Ms Ngele stated that the problem was that the Department filled its vacancies with unskilled people, hence the need to use consultants. The use of consultants was wrong.
Ms Dlakude noted that as a state SA could simply not implement its policies. Departments employ persons who were unable to perform the actual work. Skills development needed to be fast tracked so that persons employed could actually perform the work.
Mr G Krumbock (DA) referring to the bottom of page 6 of the Draft Report asked how the compensation of employees for 2012/13 could be R316.1m. It was less than 1% of the Department’s budget.
The Committee Researcher responded that the employee compensation referred to was for employees in the Administration Programme.
Mr Krumbock stating if that was true where were the figures for the compensation of employees for the entire Department. If R316m was for compensation of employees them compensation to consultants at R326m was almost on par. It was unacceptable. What was the percentage of consultants’ fees for each of the entities? It would give the Committee and idea of where employee skills was lacking. The Committee needed the additional information.
Mr Mbhele agreed that too much funds was being spent on consultants. If the Department’s restructuring was completed and skilled persons filled posts then there would be no need for consultants. Even though the Department was an engineering department it was lacking in engineers.
Mr Ollis referring to the paragraph containing the figures which Mr Krumbock had alluded to stated that the paragraph should be deleted as it was misleading or alternatively the paragraph should be corrected. The fact of the matter was that figures were missing. Members did not know which employees were being referred to in the paragraph.
The Chairperson responded that the source of the information contained in the paragraph being referred to was from National Treasury and hence the figures could not be wrong. The figures referred to employees in the Administration Programme. The observation was that too much funds was being spent on consultants. In
Mr Ollis was happy with what the Chairperson had said but was unhappy with the paragraph. If the total budget for Administration was R317m in 2012/13 how could it be that salaries amounted to R316m? The remainder was only R1m to cover all other costs. He was adamant that the figures contained in the paragraph could not be correct.
Mr Suka asked if the Department could not clear up the issue.
The Chairperson stated that there was no time for the relevant department officials to come and clarify the issue with the Committee as the Draft Report needed to be adopted by the Committee in the present meeting. She accepted Mr Ollis’s suggestion of deleting the paragraph but made a further suggestion that the Committee make a follow up with the Director General of the Transport Department to clarify the issue.
The Committee agreed to both the suggestions.
The Chairperson made reference to the shifting of funds that had taken place in Programme 2: Integrated Transport Planning of the Department and stated that it had taken place due to underperformance. It was an additional issue which needed to be followed up with the Director General.
Mr Suka referring to Programme 4: Road Transport stated that there was a huge cut in funding on the Road Regulation sub programme from R455.9m in 20011/12 to R37.9m in 2012/13. The cut in funding was far too great. The Director General had to explain.
Mr Olllis noted that the paragraph did not mention a R5.8bn transfer of funds which had taken place. This transfer of funds would impact upon figures and Mr Ollis stated in actual fact there was not a decrease in funding but an increase.
Members agreed that greater clarity on the paragraph in question was needed.
The Chairperson still speaking to Programme 4: Road Transport referred to its sub programme Road Engineering Standards and made the observation whether value for money was being received from the programme. She stated for example that roads in the North West Province was in a dire state and that in Harding in Kwazulu-Natal Department of Transport Provincial Teams were repairing potholes in asphalt roads with cement and sand which was doing more harm than good. She stated that this was another issue which needed to be unpacked by the Director General.
The Chairperson moved on to Programme 6: Maritime Transport and made the observation that SA had one of the largest coastlines. SA’s land/sea area was three times that of its land area. Investment in maritime infrastructure was lacking.
She recommended that SA reconsider investing in maritime transportation. It could for the period 2012-2022 create 445 000 jobs.
The Committee moved on to Programme 7: Public Transport.
Mr Ollis was shocked that the allocation for the Rural and Scholar Transport sub-prgramme had decreased by roughly 43%. The Committee should be vocal about its protest on this as there were kids who had no transport to school. Why would the Department cut the allocation for scholar transport? The Committee should urge the Director General to relook at the issue.
Mr Mbhele agreed with Mr Ollis’s sentiments. The allocation cut was in contrast to Outcome 3 which looked at improving rural access, infrastructure and mobility.
Mr Suka agreed that the cut in allocation was unacceptable. Dropout rates at farm schools were high due to there being no transport kids were staying home. The lack of transport also impacted upon feeding schemes. There should be a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Transport and the Department of Basic Education over the issue. Another concern was why were kids who did not stay further than 5km from their schools not entitled to transport. Five kilometres was still a huge distance to walk to school.
Ms Dlakude agreed with the sentiments echoed by members. She felt that rural people in SA were being treated as third class citizens. Learners in rural areas often walk further than 5km. It was an urgent matter as kids were raped and abused on there way to school.
The Chairperson also agreed that funding for the Rural and Scholar Transport sub-prgramme should not be decreased. The Department of Transport had a complementary role to play to improve health and education services in SA. She pointed out that children were often transported in goods delivery vans because roads in rural areas were in such bad condition. There seemed to be no alignment between Programmes 4 and 7 which were Road Transport and Public Transport respectively.
Mr Suka pointed out that there were laws which prohibited the transport of persons on the backs of bakkies for compensation. The Committee needed to take into consideration various pieces of legislation which affected the transport of kids.
The Chairperson asked for an explanation on the 42.3% decrease in allocation for the Rural and Scholar Transport sub-prgramme from R13m in 2011/12 to R7.5m in 2012/13.
Mr Suka felt that R13m was far too little for scholar transport.
Mr Dibakwane responded that National Treasury allocated funding to the provinces for scholar transport. Scholar transport was at present dealt with by the Provincial Departments of Transport and Education. He explained that the R13m was allocated towards the Scholar Transport Unit.
The Chairperson clarified that the 42.3% decrease related to a decrease in the budget of the Scholar Transport Unit and not the allocations made to provinces.
Mr Dibakwane noted that even though there had been a decrease in allocation the Unit was still doing work.
The Chairperson stated that if there was no explanation for the decrease perhaps it was best to just delete the sentence from the Draft Report. The Unit thus did not receive funds from National Treasury for the transport of scholars but the funds were transferred directly to the provinces. The Unit was therefore responsible for policy formulation and regulation. The Unit had initially received a budget of R13m in 20011/12 but due to the fact that most of its work was complete the budget was reduced by 42.3% to R7.5m in 2012/13. The 42.3% decrease in the Unit’s budget did not have a negative impact.
She also wished to be included in the Draft Report a recommendation that SA should reinvest in maritime transportation in line with the new growth path.
She also felt that the focus of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) on the national road framework created and imbalance which affected the development of rural roads infrastructure. Perhaps the mandate of Sanral needed to be reviewed. There was an uneven bias towards urban road infrastructure development at the expense of rural.
She stated that the Committee recommended that the Department relook at the mandate of Sanral on the development of roads infrastructure
The Committee adopted the Draft Report as amended.
The meeting was adjourned.
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