Meeting SummaryThe purpose of the meeting was to focus on the fact that rural roads were not maintained to an adequate standard. The Chairperson in her opening remarks sketched the background against which the meeting took place. She said there had been a declaration by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2006 regarding the upgrading of rural roads and South Africa was charged with the responsibility of leading the procedure of the upgrading of rural roads to low volume sealed roads in the region. The Minister of Transport had announced that the Department of Transport (DoT) would prioritise road infrastructure to schools and clinics in line with Government’s focus on service delivery between 2009 and 2014.
The Portfolio Committee had also gone on oversight visits where it witnessed practices which were not in line with DoT policy. It shared this information. It also pointed out what it identified as hindrances in the way of effective road infrastructure development and road maintenance.
The DoT said this meeting was a follow-up to a previous meeting on the maintenance and upgrading of rural roads. In the previous meeting certain shortcomings were highlighted and the DoT attempted to address these shortcomings in the current meeting.
One of the shortcomings highlighted was that the DoT did not have a plan to address road maintenance and development. In 2006, the DoT passed through Cabinet the Road Infrastructure Strategic Framework for SA (RISFSA). In 2007 it passed the Rural Transport Strategy for South Africa and then the S’hamba Sonke programme was launched in support of both the other two strategies.
S’hamba Sonke was adopted by as a framework that should guide roads development but there was an issue about the lack of uniformity in its interpretation by the different provinces S’hamba Sonke was adopted by MinMEC in February 2011 as a framework that should guide roads development. The lever that then allowed the DoT to carry out what was articulated in it was the Provincial Road Maintenance Grant (PRMG). However the grant did not address all the road development issues whereas the S’hamba Sonke Programme Guidelines Document itself set out how road development had to be undertaken in the country, in the wider sense. It did not only focus on maintenance.
A critical issue was the one of damage to the road network by heavy vehicles and what had been done and was being done about it. The DoT had a National Overload Control Strategy. One of the things the strategy encouraged in the light of DoT’s challenges with law enforcement was to make the industry do self-regulation. It wanted to get industry to a point where it wanted to make sure that it stayed within the legal limits of loading. In this regard, the DoT, with partners, industry and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) developed the Road Traffic Management System (RTMS), which was a self regulation system. After being spearheaded by the DoT initially, the advocacy for it had been taken over by industry.
Another area that was addressed was the supervision of the consultants who did the work for most of the road operatives, because of a lack of capacity and skills with in the different departments responsible for roads. There was a need for consultants in the first place because there was a critical skills shortage in the DoT itself, which was a huge problem.
The DoT also pointed out that provincial authorities responsible for road construction and maintenance flagrantly ignored directives from national DoT and the DoT had no leverage to penalise them in any way.
The Chairperson advised the DoT to be honest and not to sugar-coat the truths of the situation, which was in this case the fact that the development and maintenance of roads was to a large extend an unfunded mandate of the Department. While there were programmes and policies in place, they were worthless, because they could not be executed as a result of lack of funds, but, as was pointed out in the meeting, also lack of skills, to implement them. There were some funds available, but they were grossly inadequate, if weighed up against the huge and expensive task of road development and maintenance. All these factors together resulted in the deterioration of especially rural roads to the extent that one municipality in the Eastern Cape had 50 000 potholes.
Members asked whether there was a shortage of bitumen in the country and why this was the case. Members pointed out that in Harding in the Eastern Cape, potholes were fixed with cement, which was an unsound practice both practically and in terms of existing guidelines, procedures and policies on how this should be done. Members asked why the DoT did not use technological advances in its enforcement process to counter overloading of hauling trucks, by passing a law that all trucks had to be fitted with a device that would disable it the moment it went beyond its legal weight. Members asked which country the DoT used as a model in its forward projections in terms of how it wanted to develop the transport infrastructure of this country.
The Chairperson welcomed the delegation from the Department of Transport (DoT) and explained that this meeting was called to make sure that attention was focused, both at parliamentary and at departmental level, on the fact that road infrastructure in the country was not maintained. This Portfolio Committee pushed for the allocation of funds for road maintenance. It raised the issue that rural roads had to be upgraded from gravel to low volume sealed roads and had to be the same standard as urban roads. The Portfolio Committee was mindful of the fact that there was not enough budget to do it adequately.
The Portfolio Committee was also mindful of the fact that there had been a declaration by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2006 regarding the upgrading of rural roads and South Africa (SA) was charged with the responsibility of leading the procedure of the upgrading of rural roads to low volume sealed roads in the region. The Portfolio Committee did its own research on what was available in terms of alternative methods to upgrade the condition of rural roads.
While the Portfolio Committee was doing that, the Minister of Transport announced that the DoT would prioritise road infrastructure to schools and clinics in line with Government’s focus on service delivery between 2009 and 2014. This meeting was informed by that in terms of its programme, after the approval of the Road Maintenance Fund by Cabinet. This Committee could also look at institutional arrangements in the country, what was being developed by the DoT in the country and how it would cascade down to provinces and local government.
While discussing the issue of funding, the Department had developed a programme called S’hamba Sonke which looked at how pothole maintenance would be undertaken countrywide, as well as the upgrading of rural roads. The portfolio committee’s understanding was that the department had coordinating and a policy formulation mandate. If somebody from outside the country wanted to know what the model was according to which SA maintained and upgraded its roads, his first port of call would necessarily be the national DoT. The Dot at national level would then cascade it down to the other two spheres of Government.
The Portfolio Committee had then undertaken a study tour, after the approval of the budget, to visit provinces, which it was monitoring through the media, where there were serious problems like protests and marches, or from where the Portfolio Committee received letters of complaint. The Portfolio Committee visited the North West (NW), because the Committee received a letter from a resident in Rustenburg. The person stated that bus and taxi owners marched because of the state of the roads. The Chairperson also received letters about the state of the roads in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape (EC), where communities complained about the state of the roads and bus ranks. The Committee had also responded to what was raised by Members of the DA regarding the state of roads and the prevalence of potholes and money lost by the state due to penalties due to injuries as a result of the poor state of the roads.
The Portfolio Committee had discovered to its disappointment that the NW was not following the plan developed a national level. The Portfolio Committee went to Empangeni and would share its experience. The Portfolio Committee went to the EC twice and to Harding. In 2009, the Chairperson witnessed first-hand how cement was used to fix potholes in asphalt roads in Harding. This follow-up meeting was called to find out what the DoT had done since. Was it responding to what was happening on the ground? What problems was the DoT encountering?
The Portfolio Committee would also share what it saw as problems, for instance, the Portfolio Committee could not interact with the people responsible for road maintenance in the EC, because this responsibility did not lie with the DoT in the EC, but with the Department of Public Works (DPW). The Portfolio Committee could not interact with officials and employees of the DPW. The DPW at a national level could go and interact with its employees on the ground. The Portfolio Committee had to ask whether the institutional arrangements as they stood were helping or hindering service delivery. How was information discussed at the MinMEC of Transport communicated to and understood at the MinMEC of Public Works, and how did it affect service delivery?
Department of Transport presentation
Adv James Mlawu, DoT Acting DDG: Road Transport Branch, said that the meeting was a follow-up on the maintenance and upgrading of rural roads. The delegation had prepared what it understood to be the outstanding issues. The DoT had insisted on engaging with the new ministry to explain the issues of institutional alignment, where investments were going, and whether the DoT was getting better efficiencies out of those investments. It would also be important for the DoT or any appropriate party at some occasion to address the Portfolio Committee on the decline in technical skills in the Department. The decline was telling.
Ms Johanna Mulaudzi, Director: Infrastructure Planning and Co-ordination, DoT, outlined the strategies of the DoT as listed on the right hand side of slide 3. These were the Road Infrastructure Strategic Framework for SA (RISFSA), the Rural Transport Strategy and the S’hamba Sonke Programme. This was in response to a lack of a rural transport strategy that was highlighted in a previous meeting.
S’hamba Sonke was adopted by as a framework that should guide roads development but there was an issue about the lack of uniformity in its interpretation by the different provinces. The presentation would look at the S’hamba Sonke Programme Guidelines Document. S’hamba Sonke was adopted by MinMEC in February 2011 as a framework that should guide roads development. The lever that then allowed the DoT to carry out what was articulated in it was the Provincial Road Maintenance Grant (PRMG).However the grant did not address all the road development issues whereas the document itself set out how road development had to be undertaken in the country, in the wider sense. It did not only focus on maintenance.
Another area that was addressed was the supervision of the consultants who did the work for most of the road operatives, because of a lack of capacity and skills with in the different departments responsible for roads.
A critical issue was the one of damage to the road network by heavy vehicles and what had been done and was being done about it.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had given a presentation on the technical aspects of roads development, looking at alternative technologies to maintain roads and explaining what it was doing as an institution which could be shared with roads authorities.
Regarding heavy vehicles the DoT had a National Overload Control Strategy that stood on a number of pillars. It identified problems of overloading as well as solutions. An assessment was done that showed where the heavy haul corridors were in the country. Out of that a law enforcement strategy was meant to be developed to address overloading.
One of the things the strategy encouraged in the light of DoT’s challenges with law enforcement, was to make the industry do self-regulation. It wanted to get industry to a point where it wanted to make sure that it stayed within the legal limits of loading. In this regard, the DoT, with partners, industry and the CSIR developed the Road Traffic Management System (RTMS), which was a self regulation system.
The DoT realised that the uptake was slow, so during the 2009 Financial Year (FY) it developed awareness creating material for industry, educating them about RTMS and its benefits to it. In 2010/11 the DoT sponsored awareness-creating workshops and since then the industry took over the initiative and was educating itself and spreading awareness about getting accreditation in terms of the RTMS. The benefits to accredited companies were that their trucks did not have to be weighed when they went through weighing stations, but 10% of these were still weighed. Accreditation status was indicated by a yellow diamond shaped sticker with RTMS printed on it, on the front of the vehicle.
One of the challenges when the corridors were identified was that one did not find overloading so much on national roads, because there were operational weigh-bridges on the national network. Users would then avoid the national roads and use secondary roads. Through the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), the DoT was developing a mobile overload control unit which would be deployed on those roads the users used to avoid the weighbridge.
The RTMS also had a rolling enforcement plan which would look at how to improve on issues of overload control dealing with the weighing issues as well as the prosecution of transgressors.
Upgrading of low volume roads
The DoT drew from existing guidelines the criteria that were used to determine when a road needed to be upgraded from gravel to a sealed road. The volume of traffic on the road was not the only factor. Financial, economic and socio-political issues also played a role.
In 2006, the DoT passed through Cabinet the Road Infrastructure Strategic Framework for SA. In 2007 it passed the Rural Transport Strategy and then there was S’hamba Sonke was launched in support of both the other two strategies.
Slide 8 highlighted aspects of those strategies which addressed rural road infrastructure.
RISFSA had a section called the Road Network and Classification which was the re-classification of roads based on function and access roads formed part of Class 4 and 5. It also proposed a standard approach towards prioritisation and allocation of funding for roads to ensure that all criteria were considered when investment decisions were taken.
The Rural Transport Strategy dealt with the provision of rural transport infrastructure and services, the promotion of non-motorised and intermediate transport modes, regulation and safety as capacity building and monitoring.
The S’hamba Sonke Programme provided increased investment in maintenance of key arterial routes to support the rural economy, supported job creation, supported updated information on the state and the status of the road network, and promoted improved access to schools, clinics and other public facilities as well as road safety.
The RISFSA document, on page 53, stated that “Greater accent than hitherto needs to be placed on rural access roads as well as on the metropolitan and urban road network”. On page 83 of the same it stated that access road backlogs had to be eliminated and that the road building projects had to be labour intensive and had to be used to create work in especially economically depressed areas.
This articulation informed the focus of the expanded public works programme (EPWP) allocation of R3.2 billion in 2006/7 when the DoT started expanding the public works programme.
The Rural Transport and Development Programme outlined the alignment of the rural transport strategy with other programmes like the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme (ISRDP) and Integrated Development Plan (IDP) projects of municipalities. Transport in deep rural areas was a huge challenge. The most common mode of transport was bakkies [pick-up trucks]. The DoT wanted to pilot a micro-freight model as a means of acceptable public transport which addressed both mobility and access in rural areas.
After these strategies were adopted, the DoT had problems with funding with which to implement the different legs of the strategy. The rural transport grant had seen change from funding access road development in rural areas into funding the development of road asset management systems in twenty one district municipalities. There was only R35 million available for that.
The biggest challenge was that, in terms of the assignment of functions, the DoT at a national level could not implement projects directly in rural areas. The projects that had been implemented had been implemented with the understanding that they were a pilot programme, and once the lessons had been learnt, they would be rolled out on a larger scale by the authorities authorised to implement. A few of these had been run, for example in the EC and at Sekhukhune in KZN, but even in these programmes only one leg of the strategy had been implemented. The full strategy aimed to integrate all the legs so that when roads were developed in rural areas, they were not developed in isolation, but with linkages to markets and other social services in those areas.
Some of the challenges experienced in the implementation of the strategy were the lack of technical skills in the transport sector as a whole, not only in the rural areas, but in the provinces as well as at a national level. The DoT tended to outsource work, because the skills did not exist within the DoT to do it in-house, but the skills to manage and supervise the consultants were also a challenge.
The on-going updating and collection of road network information
Funding was critical for access road development. In the strategy at the time, the DoT was looking at establishing a Rural Access Road Development Fund, but this had not happened. As mentioned before, the rural transport grant had changed from funding access road development in rural areas into funding the development of road asset management systems.
The presentation outlined the different road development programmes which provinces were implementing. Provincial roads were not necessarily the class 4 and 5 roads classified as access roads, but they provided links between communities and centres of economic activity. The presentation listed the programmes in the different provinces.
The DoT was undertaking a national benchmarking exercise. It was searching for success stories amongst the programmes in the provinces which could be rolled out on a national level. The DoT was critically aware that it could not use a one-size-fits-all approach, because some programmes would not be implementable in some provinces. The DoT did road shows in provinces on S’hamba Sonke and it was looking at Zibambele as a model for implementation. The conditions on the ground in the NW made it clear that Zibambele would not work there. However, it did not mean that a programme could not be adapted to suit the situation in a particular province.
The DoT had developed in the meantime a concept document with implementation guidelines, which was shared with provinces, which essentially guided provinces on how their programmes had to address the five key pillars of S’hamba Sonke.
Progress to date
Currently the DoT was implementing Know-Your-Network concept of S’hamba Sonke with provinces. There was still a need to take this to the municipal sphere. For this first time, in the 2011/12 FY, the DoT was directly responsible for the management of the Provincial Road Maintenance Grant and was setting the required processes and system in place to do it effectively.
The plan was to look at the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG), which funded the development of roads at a municipal level, within the next year, and apply the lessons learnt in the PRMG to address access and other roads programs within the municipal sphere.
At a provincial level, provinces had been allowed to utilise R500/km to conduct visual condition assessments on their roads network. They could use up to R10 million to address capacity challenges in this regard.
The Rural Transport and Infrastructure Grant had been refocused to fund asset management systems in the municipal sphere and the DoT was working with 21 district municipalities to do this.
SANRAL agreed to provide programme management support where required by provinces and municipalities.
Regarding progress, after the meeting held on 22 May 2012, the DoT engaged with the CSIR on its presentation as well as with the company that was delivering books to schools in terms of assessing a lack of access and mobility for schools. Meetings were held on 04 and 05 June and a task team would be established to address the technical aspects in terms of what the CSIR presented regarding access to schools. The same process would be followed with the Department of Health to assess access to clinics and health facilities.
Outstanding issues and challenges
What was outstanding was the finalisation of the re-classification of roads and assignment of administrative responsibility at a municipal level. It would help the DoT to deal with un-proclaimed roads. This process would also quantify access roads and make their condition known. This would put the DoT in the position to advocate for further funding.
When the DoT got funding for the PRMG, it looked at it as if it would address all the DoT’s challenges. In reality, the PRMG only focused on issues of maintenance. Road construction and maintenance were still critically underfunded in the country.
Effective inter-governmental cooperation was necessary to support roads development at a local government level.
The Chairperson told Ms Mlaudzi that she had to be specific and honest in her presentation, because all Members left Cape Town on Thursdays and Fridays and went back to their constituencies in municipalities and villages. Ms Mulaudzi was referring to those constituencies. This meeting was called to find solutions, so the Portfolio Committee wanted absolute honesty. The truth was that the strategy of the DoT remained on paper. Ms Mulaudzi did not have to sugar-coat the situation. The Members were citizens, not visitors. They knew the areas she was referring to and very well and had current information on what was happening there. The Portfolio Committee would not penalise the person doing the presentation. It wanted to deal with the problem.
Adv Mlawu replied that the presentation was angled in a particular way, because the DoT understood that the Portfolio Committee wanted to understand whether it had policies in place to guide it, and whether it did its national duties in these areas and what the levers of engagement were. When one looked at Slide 3 referring to the Rural Transport Strategic Framework For South Africa, RISFSA, and S’hamba Sonke Programme (SSP) it was evident that the DoT had policies. There was also the White paper on Rural Transport.
The rural strategy was a strategy. S’hamba Sonke had a dedicated grant, but it was not properly implemented, because all provinces did not follow the prescripts. Also, it was only for maintenance. With what leverage did a national department have to drive policy implementation in a space where it did not really have institutional responsibility/funding?
There were many structures and platforms between national-, provincial- and local government to discuss and agree on policy matters, which were not being used at the moment. In the context of performance agreements between ministries and the President and ministries and their sectors, what enforcement mechanisms were there? In the NW the roads department was not following the prescribed methodology. What was the recall? From where he sat, the recall mechanisms in the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) were very limited. DORA did not create punitive arrangements. Some provinces deviated from the prescript. The rural transport strategy had no funding and no enforcement powers.
What recall powers did national department have when the provinces deviated? Some may interpret the DORA differently from the way it was understood by the DoT. One of the things that happened on the PRMG was that provinces submitted provincial business plans to the national Department for approval before the financial year started. On 31 August 2012, the DoT presented a report to MinMEC . Some only achieved 25% of what they promised to do. If labour intensive projects were not started on time, they ran behind and the money was not spent as it would have been, resulting in fiscal dumping and the funds being used for other purposes. What was the recall power of the national DoT?
The Chairperson said she liked the honesty. It took the Portfolio Committee to the root causes of the problems. The officials had to remember they were presenting to the highest decision-making structure of the country. If the root causes were the institutional arrangements or the powers and functions, it was this structure which had to deal with those things. The root causes had to be pointed out, understood and addressed in order to root out the problem.
The Chairperson said the Portfolio Committee had been to Harding in 2011. It had raised the issue of potholes where cement was used to close asphalt potholes. She had photos illustrating what was done. The person in charge of the team was a qualified engineer. Mr S Farrow (DA), a qualified engineer, was part of the Committee's delegation.
In Ugu District Municipality, where the Chairperson had been deputy mayor before being deployed to Parliament, the municipality successfully closed more than 6 000 potholes with the cold asphalt method, which had been presented to this Portfolio Committee. The Portfolio Committee started with the provincial team in Ugu, showing them the potholes that had been closed using the cold asphalt method, while she was deputy mayor there. The party then proceeded to Harding where she had observed the unsatisfactory work done by employees of the DoT in KZN. The issue had been raised in 2011. The provincial officials promised it would be corrected. When the Portfolio Committee went back in 2012, the employees of the DoT in the province were still mending the road with cement. It damaged the road infrastructure, tyres, and caused accidents, because cement did not bond with asphalt. When it rained, holes opened up again and created bumps. If, at provincial level an engineering technician who had been to a technicon allowed this to happen, what was the role of the national DoT and who had to rectify it? The provincial portfolio committee did not go there on its own. It had to be dragged there by the national Portfolio Committee on Transport. When the national DoT produced this report, what was the reaction to this report at MinMEC?
Mr I Ollis (DA) asked whether he understood correctly that, in the EC, the roads were maintained by DPW.
The Chairperson replied that the MEC for Roads was also the MEC of Public Works, because the Department was called the Department of Roads and Public Works. In some provinces this was the arrangement. The MEC responsible for roads then only attended the MinMEC for Public Works, not Transport. How were the programmes developed in the DoT communicated to the DPW and a common understanding created, and how was accountability realised in this case? At a national level there was no Department of Roads and Public Works, but a DPW and a DoT.
Mr L Suka (ANC) appreciated the presentation. Out of the intervention by the Chairperson it became clear to him that the strategy would remain on paper. The challenge was funding, and without funding it was only a talkshop. Even Ms Mulaudzi grappled with this fact, because she knew there was no funding to implement the strategy.
Mr Suka said his second comment centred on outsourcing vs internal skills. The people employed did not know how to deal with road infrastructure. The little funds that were there went to outsourcing instead of using it with internal skills to fix the roads.
The problem was that the DoT also piloted some projects and these pilot programmes would go on forever, if there were no funds. A meeting with National Treasury (NT) was outstanding to fund these projects. R35 million for a pilot project was a drop in the ocean. Maybe the Portfolio Committee needed to call the relevant portfolio committees from the provinces in order for them to come and account for their deviations from the prescribed procedures. The Portfolio Committee would also understand the premise from which they moved, so that in the end, those roads would be fixed.
He asked the DoT if its strategy remained on paper and what its turnaround was. What should Members tell their constituencies? He asked what the DoT thought had to be done. The DoT had to have a programme that showed the way forward.
The Chairperson added to what Mr Suka said. The DoT presented a strategy which had been approved by Cabinet in 2007, but which had to date not been implemented in full, only in part. How did it happen that Cabinet approved a strategy, but ignored the financial implications of the strategy, creating an unfunded mandate?
The CEO of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) had been warning the Portfolio Committee since 2009 about the rolling stock that needed to be replaced and had made passionate pleas for the Portfolio Committee to intervene and make sure that the funding was secured to replace the current run-down rolling stock and lines. The DoT never made any noise about the dire situation road maintenance found itself in.
The Portfolio Committee had asked PRASA how much it needed. There was a budget review process where the Portfolio Committee could influence the budget. There was also the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) where budgets were projected over a number of years. The DoT never brought this issue up as something that needed urgent attention regarding funding.
In the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) of 2001, President Thabo Mbeki had said that the country needed to develop skills to develop its economy. How did it happen that in 2012, the country had not developed the skills? The Portfolio Committee had called the DoT to present a Human Resources Strategy in line with the needs of the DoT.
The Portfolio Committee had visited China and was told that the Chinese government had donated R200 million to develop skills in SA. When the Portfolio Committee visited China in 2010, only R30 million had been used. The question was not whether questions were raised and issues identified, it was how Government responded to the issues raised?
Adv Mlawu replied that there was now a MOU which needed funding. Discretionary funding had been cut down. This Department had to invest in research. The best institution was SANRAL, but SANRAL was dealing with the high–level road network.
The Chairperson said that there was the CSIR. Some technologies had been presented to the Portfolio Committee. Regarding the use of consultants by the DoT the DoT was a policy-making body. Technologies accredited by the CSIR could be accredited by the DOT and their use could be made mandatory. There was enough research available, but consultants were linked to companies using old technology and the consultants applied those old technologies.
Adv Mlawu asked, when the DoT sealed gravel roads to become sealed low volume roads, if the road attracted high traffic flow, what was better - a sealed road with potholes or a gravel road with high maintenance?
Adv Mlawu said that the DoT had to be able to do its own research led by engineers.
Mr Ollis asked whether the DoT found that there was a shortage of bitumen in SA when trying to upgrade the roads. In 2005 to 2009 Johannesburg had to make its own tar. Was the tar exported? Why was there a shortage?
Adv Mlawu replied that the bitumen shortage was discussed at MinMEC. Bitumen was produced erratically. Production was controlled by the four big refineries. It was not regulated. This was a problem for SANRAL and the provinces. The matter had been raised. The DoT was interacting with the relevant departments, including the Department of Energy, in order to resolve it.
Mr Ollis asked what effect the collapse of Transnet’s branch lines had on the rural road network. Transnet had tried to sell them, but there were no takers, because they were too damaged and vandalised.
Adv Mlawu replied that where the rail lines had collapsed, truck were used to do the heavy duty work. There was engagement between the DoT and Transnet. Government would have to make a decision on the matter.
Mr Ollis said Mr Suka was correct to say that there was a high-level strategy. There were no tables to indicate whether the situation was getting better or worse. In a document presented in January 2012, it was said that in the EC there was a R9 billion backlog in the surfacing of roads. Was this better or worse now? If there were no figures, one was talking framework all the time. The Portfolio Committee needed to know whether it was getting better or worse, and if worse, how much worse? If it became a lot worse, the Portfolio Committee and DoT had to approach Treasury.
Adv Mlawu replied that he had presented the statistics and graphs in previous presentations. Currently 80% of roads were beyond their design lives and needed to be recreated. 75% of roads were behind in maintenance. In 2009 statistics it was broken down into poor, good and very good depending on the condition. In this country, only SANRAL roads were well maintained. There were backlogs in access roads to schools and clinics.
Mr Ollis said the problem was not just funding. It was also under-investment for many years. At a provincial level, a lack of technical skills was a problem. Provinces were not delivering due to a lack of technical skills. Provinces outsourced it but these outsourced programmes were not delivering. Provinces also spent funding on other things. Provinces made themselves guilty of fiscal dumping like buying new cars, but it could not be evaluated. The DoT was also frustrated.
Adv Mlawu agreed that funding was not the only problem. There was a time in the history of the country, when a decision was made that outsourcing was the way to go. In 1996, the DoT had its own internal construction unit. It was not so fast/cost-effective, but was the training ground for the Department's own internal resources. Outsourcing happened because of a decision taken. It looked attractive, because the salary bill was lower. The people who worked in the construction unit went to work for private engineering firms. There could be a decision that said: 'No more outsourcing. Stop outsourcing in two to five years'. 70% outsourcing of projects led to federalism. It was creating strange collusions. There was a pervasive incentive given to various authorities to engage in a free-for –all and to minimise the role of the DoT.
There had to be a limit to outsourcing. There was fear of defining those things. Officials were scared of legal challenges to such decisions. In provinces, the big picture was missing.
Operating like a federal state created high transport costs. What was needed was a new dialogue. PRASA could say exactly what it needed, because PRASA controlled all trains in the country and had exact figures. Rural roads were never costed. The DoT did not know the backlog in rural access. It could and would become a human rights issue.
Mr Ollis asked whether the DoT thought, with the current institutional arrangements, that some of the provincial transport departments operated like rogue states? The transport departments in provinces essentially said to national Department - ‘Give the money but stay out of our territory’. They were not accountable to anybody and acted like independent authorities. If this was the case, Parliament had to re-think the situation. What was the DoT’s opinion?
Powers and functions/institutional arrangements
The Chairperson added to the question raised by Mr Ollis regarding powers and functions. The Republic of South Africa was a unitary state. The DoT was charged with policy formulation and coordination. What was meant by coordination? The Chairperson had been deputy mayor of a district municipality which had the responsibility of developing an integrated development plan (IDP) in terms of powers and functions, and she was responsible for that. No national department ever attended the meetings. Only SANRAL attended. Provincial departments sent junior staff that was not responsible for planning. The plans of the provinces and the national departments were their own. It was not integrated with the plans of the district municipality. This caused problems regarding implementation and the allocation of resources.
The question that she wanted to ask against the background of what she explained was whether the three spheres of Government was operating as if SA was a federal state and not a unitary state. This was not the problem of the DoT. The DoT was presenting problems as they were. The Portfolio Committee did not see on its oversight visits to provinces what the DoT presented here. The provinces were doing their own thing. In Cuba there was a universal programme throughout the country. In China it was the same. What was different in SA?
The Chairperson said SA had a national development plan. Who was responsible for planning road infrastructure in SA? She wanted to understand whether there was an institution in SA which had the responsibility to plan the entire road infrastructure. Then she wanted to know whether there was a plan to implement what was planned.
Adv Mlawu replied: there was no institution which was responsible for planning roads for the whole country. Planning was located in powers and functions. The information the DoT presented was always outdated. It had to budget to get updated information. To get updates on roads and conditions of roads was a problem. The people on the ground in the provinces could not be trusted to give correct and accurate information. It led back to capacity.
Policy formulation was hampered by a simple thing. The DoT had developed strategies, but in some provinces like Free State (FS), Gauteng, and NW it was a nightmare to implement, because of the high staff turnover rate. Head office spoke to different people all the time. This led to provinces not being able to spend their grants and having to apply for roll-overs. The personnel was unstable and it was difficult to establish continuity with staff that was constantly changing.
It was true that the problem was not only funding and that other factors also contributed,
Mr Ollis asked whether he heard correctly that nine provinces could not provide the DoT with information about the condition of their roads and updated information about new roads.
Adv Mlawu replied that the PRMG made provision for provinces to be able to use R500 per km to provide this information. No province had activated this funding in the current year, which meant it had not been done, which meant that this information was not available.
This information was to be collected at the end of the year. It was not happening before, but was happening now, but it needed capacity on both sides in order to provide quality information which could be relied on. The DoT’s report was based on the reports from the provinces.
This capability did not exist before, but existed now. It was a provincial function. The quality of the information produced was a challenge.
The Chairperson asked Adv Mlawu on which country he was modelling SA in the process of developing its transport system. When she underwent training she had to model herself on a specific person whom she wanted to be like. Regarding SA transport, which country was SA trying to learn from?
Adv Mlawu replied that he did not emulate any country. He based his view on the development of the transport system on the Constitution. It came back to where powers and functions were located.
The Chairperson said that the Portfolio Committee had undertaken a study tour to China. The Portfolio Committee researcher had looked for the 2003 national survey on Public Transport as well as the SADC Report. The Portfolio Committee had listened to PRASA. It had done desktop research. It had then decided to copy China, because it had similarities to SA. It would adopt the system and adapt it to local conditions. She did not hear which country the DoT was learning from.
Mr Suka said surely if one wanted to improve and was developing in the context of Africa, one did a comparative study. One had to take lesson from Germany, China, and SADC countries and apply it in one’s own situation. Those powers and responsibilities should be informed by what one had learnt.
Mr Suka had observed from the presentation that there were gaps in enforcement in the provinces. He advised Adv Mlawu to leave the particulars in writing with the Committee so that the law makers could assist the DoT in that respect. The DoT also had to undertake a study tour. As the Chairperson pointed out, in 2010, only R30 million out of R200 million had been used for this purpose. Adv Mlawu would be enriched by this experience and it could strengthen the implementing arm of the DoT. One had to think forward.
Ms D Dlakude (ANC) said the role of the national Department was not implementation, but monitoring, being a watchdog. How would the national Department monitor the funds not used? When the Portfolio Committee had arrived in the NW, the province had a different programme. The S’hamba Sonke funds were used to pay 110 consultants. The province still needed to construct provincial and local roads.
Ms Dlakude said that, according to the presentation, within the RTMS industries would manage themselves. How would the DoT know that the industry complied? In Johannesburg there were weigh-bridges. The drivers used corruption to get away with overloading.
Ms Mulaudzi replied that the RTMS never employed law enforcement. It was more beneficial if industries complied on their own. The DoT targeted big players in industry like Eskom, and timber companies in Mpumlanga and KZN. It tried to make industries understand the benefits of self-regulation. When accredited, they did not abuse the fact that they were accredited.
Ms Dlakude said that in Mozambique there was a company with 600 trucks which were constantly on SA roads. How would one ensure compliance in this case?
The Chairperson said that science and technology had to be applied. Parliament could pass a law that all vehicles had to be fitted with a device that would disable the vehicle the moment the vehicle was overloaded.
Ms Mulaudzi said that the DoT would get there over time.
The Chairperson said it would not happen by default.
Mr Ollis pointed that if Government commissioned Mercedes in East London to design such a device, it would exist by the end of the year. He later confirmed that the device already existed and could be bought off the shelf.
The Chairperson observed that the DoT officials had to think out of the box.
Ms Mulaudzi said the trucks from Mozambique were subject to the normal regulatory procedures on the roads. The SADC secretariat wanted to look at the RTMS as a means to deal with overloading at a regional level.
The Chairperson requested honesty. There was pressure from SADC to increase the legal limit for vehicle mass. It was deregulated and there was no provision to invest sufficiently in the maintenance of the roads. SADC took decisions and SA had to lead on this issue.
Ms Mulaudzi replied that that 'decision did not apply to this matter'. This had to do with the North-South corridor. She was just indicating the pressure.
The Chairperson said that this Portfolio Committee could engage the portfolio committees on transport of the SADC countries on this matter.
The Chairperson asked Adv Mlawu how the DoT monitored what was happening in the provinces. The people who fixed the road with cement in Harding were DoT employees.
Adv Mlawu replied that it was not as if there were no stipulated standards. There was a subcommittee which approved standards for construction and maintenance.
The Chairperson said that setting and upholding standards were part of the management process. If there was no enforcement of these, then it existed on paper only.
Ms Mulaudzi said that, in terms of DORA, provinces had to gazette programmes. More programme support was needed to ensure that what got reported on paper was happening on the ground.
By the end of the second quarter the NW province had spent only 25% of its allocated budget. The DoT realised that this was the result of over commitment from the previous FY. So it was paying for old projects. Some projects had to be terminated at the end of the calendar year. A letter was written, but the province could not use PRMG funding.
Other challenges were inadequate funding for provincial roads. If a province got the infrastructure grant, it received less funding for other purposes as there was a reduction in the baseline of that Department.
Once the equity share baseline was reduced, provinces had a problem reporting on achievements. In the current financial year, National Treasury took the grant allocation for disaster management and put it together with road maintenance. There were no ring-fenced funds for road maintenance exclusively.
In the EC with last year’s floods, R1 billion was needed for repair of the roads, but the province only received R61 million. The province took money from the PRMG, which affected targets and what was achieved.
Chairperson's closing observations
The Chairperson said she was not a scientist, but a community developer and public representative. If it was made mandatory by law to fit to all heavy duty commercial vehicles registered in SA a device that would disable the vehicle the moment the vehicle was overloaded, it could prevent accidents.
She noticed that people who were supposed to work together, officials and politicians, were thinking in silos. The DoT was also ignoring some of the policies approved by Parliament and Cabinet. It was supposed to assist the Portfolio Committee to agree and come to a common understanding with the provinces. There was an Intergovernmental Relations Framework to guide bodies on intergovernmental cooperation.
The DoT did not use IDPs and IDP forums. Campaigns and programmes were approved, launched and then forgotten. She quoted the Masakhane campaign where President Nelson Mandela had said South Africans inherited a country with uneven levels of development. The first priority was to provide services where they did not exist, to upgrade and improve services where they did exist but were of a poor standard and to maintain those services which were of a high standard. If Parliament followed what was said in February 1995, it would not have been necessary to call this meeting. The problems discussed in this meeting were identified by President Nelson Mandela on his first day in office.
The second president of SA, President Thabo Mbeki, had identified the need for skills development.
The fourth president, President Jacob Zuma, had identified the need for planning and initiated the National Development Plan. When one government took power from another one, it could not forget and discard the lessons learnt by and through that government. It had to go back and look at what was said before.
Without a national plan for road infrastructure development there would be no progress on the matter of road maintenance. There had to be a model for skills and technology development in the country. How did the DoT want the Portfolio Committee to assist it with the development of a national plan for road infrastructure development?
The only roads that were in an adequate condition were the ones maintained by SANRAL.
The most damage to road infrastructure happened in municipalities where there was no revenue base. Gauteng had a revenue base, but the roads were full of potholes. One municipality in the EC had 50 000 potholes. The prevalence of potholes was a direct cause of accidents.
The DoT also had to beef up its enforcement powers. The Portfolio Committee witnessed incidents on oversight visits where people (workers) were transported by vehicles like trucks and tractors which were not designed to transport people. In a road accident that occurred recently in Mpumalanga 24 people died. They were passengers in a truck.
The meeting was adjourned.
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