Department of Transport briefing on draft notice on fees for abnormal loads on public roads

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04 February 2014
Chairperson: Ms N Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Transport started to go through a presentation on the fees that the Department was proposing, as set out in a draft Notice, on abnormal load vehicles and the conveyance of abnormal loads on public roads. It was said that fees were prescribed in accordance with section 92(2) of the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), 1996. However, section 81(3) of that Act allowed the MEC of a province to determine the fees or charges payable for a vehicle or load that did not comply with the NRTA. At this point, the Committee Chairperson asked what the role and functions were of the Committee in regard to such fees. She asked if the requirement that Parliament “consider” the fees also meant that it could propose changes, approve or disapprove those fees, and why Parliament was involved at all if the MEC was to determine them. She felt that far more advice was needed, firstly on the legal obligations of the Committee, and also pointed out that the presentation failed to clarify what reasoning was applied to determine the fees. The Department took the point, and said that this presentation would be withdrawn and a fuller one prepared. In addition, the Department would ensure that a member of its Technical Advisory Committee was present at the next meeting to explain how the fee structure was arrived at.

Members considered, and adopted, minutes of meetings held between 8 and 29 October 2013, and the minutes of the meeting on 28 January 2014.

The draft report on the Committee’s Oversight Visit to Passenger Rail Agency was circulated, but the Chairperson noted that this was not the correct version, but a previous draft that should have been modified in line with suggestions already made by the Committee. She expressed strong displeasure, but another Member suggested that the meeting be postponed, and the Committee sort out the issues with the Committee Secretariat, who apologised for the error.

Meeting report

Department of Transport Briefing: Abnormal Load Vehicles Fees
Mr Mawethu Vilana, Acting Director General, Department of Transport, informed the Committee that the Department of Transport (DOT) had prepared a draft Notice prescribing fees payable for the operation of an abnormal vehicle and conveyance of an abnormal load on a public road, for consideration. If the draft Notice was approved by Parliament, it would then be published in the Government Gazette.

Mr John Motsatsinu, Director, Department of Transport, noted that South Africa had a high number of abnormal-load vehicles operating, as a direct result of continuing development and the need for construction and improvement of various infrastructures in the country. South African coastal towns and cities were engaged in the renewable energy projects, so wind turbines for erection of wind farms were being transported by road, mainly in Western & Eastern Cape, and they had to be conveyed as abnormal loads, on various types of roads. The DOT had come up with a structured fee that would be payable for the operation of an abnormal vehicle and conveyance of an abnormal load on a public road. He noted that fees were prescribed in accordance with section 92(2) of the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), 1996. However, section 81(3) of that Act allowed the MEC of a province to determine the fees or charges payable for a vehicle or load that did not comply with the NRTA. Once fees were determined they would be sent to the Minister for publication.

The Chairperson asked clarification on the role of the Committee in relation to the draft Notices, and whether “consideration” by Parliament also meant that the Committee could make changes. She asked also what the Committee was expected to do, if the fees as  determined by MECs were, in principle, sent to the Minister.

Mr Vilana replied that the Committee needed to consider and then approve or disapprove the notice setting out the structure of fees. If a structured fees notice was approved, it would be considered as a final version that would be then be sent for publication by the Minister in the Government Gazette.

Mr Motsatsinu stated that the NCOP had already evaluated and considered the proposal of structured fees. This Committee was therefore presented with the fees as approved by the NCOP, but if the Committee wished to change the fees, they would need to be sent back again to the NCOP for its approval. He clarified that “consideration” did imply that changes could be effected.

The Chairperson was not satisfied with the explanation. She said that this presentation made it clear that fees were determined by a MEC, in terms of the NRTA. If this was the case, then she wanted to know why the abnormal load vehicles fees were being presented to the Committee and what the Committee should do about them.

Mr Vilana replied that his Department was looking for a concurrent approval before the structured fees notices went for publication.

The Chairperson intervened at this point, to ask how the Committee would consider the fees, without an expert to guide Members to take an informed decision. The Chairperson insisted that a legal advisor was needed to guide the Committee.

Mr Vilana responded that these fees were submitted to MECs, who had taken into consideration those issues.

The Chairperson explained that she understood the point, but still felt that the Committee was in a dilemma, not least because the Committee needed to be properly briefed to clarify whether it was supposed to deal with the fees, and whether, in that process, consultation would be required. She thought, in addition to that technical point, that the presentation itself was lacking, in that it did not give any indication of how the fees were arrive at, or what the Department was expecting the Committee to do. If the Department was expecting the Committee to consider abnormal load vehicle fees, it was unlikely that it could do so without getting further information that could guide its decision.

Mr Vilana took the points as raised by the Chairperson, and suggested that the DOT should not proceed any further with the briefing at this point. He agreed that it would be useful to have a legal adviser present, but said that the DOT would also see to it that the Abnormal Road Technical Committee attended with the DOT in the future.

Ms D Pule (ANC) started to ask another question on heavy vehicles, but the Chairperson said that she could not entertain these questions as any discussion was to be restricted to the presentation so far.

The Chairperson indicated that the Department should, in its next presentation, elaborate on the process followed to arrive at the figures presented to the Committee. The Committee, as a body representing the public, should be briefed about the legal implications of these figures – something that had not been included in the current presentation documents. For that reason, the Committee could not consider the fees today. The Department needed time to prepare a better presentation and to get its technical and legal committee to attend when next briefing the Committee.

Adoption of previous minutes
The minute of 08 October 2013 was considered and adopted.
The minute of 09 October 2013 was considered and adopted, with a minor amendment.
The minute of 10 October 2013 was considered and adopted.
The minute of 15 October 2013 was considered and adopted.
The minute of 22 October 2013 was considered and adopted.
The minute of 29 October 2013 was considered and adopted.
The minute of 28 January 2014 was considered and adopted.

Committee Oversight reports
The draft reports on oversight visits conducted by the Committee were distributed.

The Chairperson asked the Committee to firstly turn to the report on the Oversight Visit to Passenger Rail Agency South Africa.

She allowed ten minutes for Members to go through the draft report. However, while she was reading through her own copy, she commented that this was the wrong report; it appeared to be the very first draft, to which the Committee had already effected some amendments, and asked the Committee Secretary why incorrect documents had been distributed. It seemed that there had been lack of communication between the Committee Secretary and the Chairperson’s Secretary in that regard. She warned the Committee Secretary, Ms Valerie Carelse, that the Committee could not continue working like this.

Mr G Krumbock (DA) objected to the Chairperson confronting Ms Carelse in front of the Committee Members, and thought that the Chairperson maybe also had to accept that there had been a failure to effectively manage her secretaries. He suggested that the leadership committee could deal with that incident to avoid a recurrence or any future problems.

The Chairperson responded that the incident did not involve her and it might not be dealt with leadership committee, simply because this was neither a question of her management nor a labour issue. The incident was about mistakenly printing and handing in wrong documents.

Mr Krumbock started to further clarify his stance, but the Chairperson interrupted him and reiterated that the problem was nothing to do with her own competency in management.

Mr Krumbock left the meeting, saying that he would not stay if he was being interrupted by the Chairperson.

Mr M Duma (ANC) requested a postponement of the meeting, because clearly the right documents were not arranged and made available to the Committee.

Ms Carelse and the other Committee staff apologised to the Committee for any inconvenience.

Ms R Motsepe (ANC) and Ms Pule agreed that the meeting should be postponed, and requested the Chairperson to discuss the matter privately with the Committee Secretariat.

The Chairperson commented that this meeting had been a waste of time.

The meeting was adjourned.


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