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TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 September 2000
BRIEFING BY THE MINISTER OF TRANSPORT
The Minister of Transport briefly outlined the major projects of the Department as well as problem areas, the implementation of legislation and the proposed budget for 2001/2002. Relationships between the private and public sector were discussed as well as the taxi process and the implementation the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act and the Road Traffic Management Corporation Act. Thorough discussion on these issues ensued and the Minister answered many questions.
The Committee was briefed by the Minister of Transport, Mr Dullah Omar, and a delegation from the Department, which included the Director-General, Mr Sipho Msikinya, and Mr Derek Makakwane.
Restructuring of the Department
The Minister described the programme of the Department over the last six years as one of restructuring and transformation. The role of the State in transport has become one of policy formulation and regulation, while the private sector is involved in operations. The State is not divested from operations, but expertise exists in the private sector that must be used to create an effective public/private partnership. The State must not act simultaneously as a referee and a player, and for this reason various bodies have been created to regulate at 'arms-length' such as the South African Maritime Authority, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Air Traffic Navigation Authority, South African Roads Agency and the Cross-Border Road Agency. Added to this a port authority and rail authority will be created. Combined with this is a restructuring of Portnet and Spoornet. A vision is therefore being implemented of a role for the state and the private sector which is accompanied by a restructuring of transport departments.
The delineation of nines provinces in South Africa necessitated the creation of 9 provincial transport departments, the departments in the new provinces having no existing bureaucracy and requiring creation from scratch. Combined with this, cooperation is being built between local, provincial and national government and SALGA has been drawn into the Ministerial Committee on Transport (MINCOM). Inter-governmental relations are good but some development is still required. A problematic area is the location of law enforcement and road traffic management with provincial authorities, but this is being dealt with in the form of the Road Traffic Management Corporation Act (RTMC) and the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO).
The Minister listed a number of priorities for the year:
· Safety in all areas of transport (road, rail, sea and air) was labelled as a priority concern. While the public focus is on road safety, safety in the other areas of transport is equally important.
· A second priority area is law enforcement. The problem of limited financial resources is being addressed together with the Department of Finance and R13 million is available for the implementation of the RTMC. The Provincial governments and the National government have each made R15 million available at the request of MINCOM which will enable the RTMC to be implemented incrementally starting early next year. Amendments to the RTMC and AARTO acts slowed implementation, but the implementation plans for RTMC are almost complete and MINCOM has agreed that work should begin on an appointment process for the shareholder committee of the RTMC. MINCOM has also been addressing overload control. The private sector is to be involved in the construction of weighbridges, and the penalties for overloading are being reviewed. Many accidents are caused through speeding and again the private sector is being encouraged to play a role in the administration and establishment of speed-trap cameras. There has also been a focus on driver- and vehicle-testing centres. Many road traffic problems are the result of unqualified drivers and there are allegations of fraud and corruption at many of these centres. Action to combat this has been initiated in Gauteng and other provinces are being encouraged to follow suit. Many of the other provinces, however, first wish the support of National government to create effective testing centres before proceeding against the existing ones. Furthermore, in terms of the plans outlined in the Department's Strategy 2000 document, MINCOM wants to 'tighten-up' on driver testing. Professional drivers have to satisfy additional requirements such as regular re-testing and additional training by approved bodies. Meetings have been held with the Minister of Safety and Security to make corruption and fraud in transport priority crimes in terms of the National Crime Prevention Strategy.
· A third priority area is the development and maintenance of the infrastructure. The support of the Portfolio Committee is essential in this regard and infrastructure is entirely dependent on budgetary allowances. Last year the budget to the National Roads Agency was cut in favour of the transformation and extension of rail services, and it is not possible to reduce this allocation to rail services while the transformation program is still underway. The budget is such that either road or rail must be sacrificed, and currently the need is for extension of rail services. At a national level the maintenance of roads has not been bad, but these will deteriorate if money is not invested in maintenance as many of the national roads are reaching the end of their life spans. Revenue for maintenance could be obtained through extending the toll-road system, but this is only appropriate where roads are used predominantly for economic functions and not where roads serve a social function. It must be ensured that both local and provincial governments get adequate, earmarked funding that can and must be spent on roads, rather than the current arrangement of competition in the provincial budget. Fuel levies currently enter the general pool and it has been proposed that these levies be earmarked for infrastructure development.
· The ongoing taxi process is a fourth priority area. In every province databases of all taxi associations and their members are being generated along with taxi registers in cooperation with the taxi industry. Illegal operators continue to exist and the legalisation process will therefore be reopened. Provinces are required to have prepared regulations in this regard by the end of September, and once the regulations are promulgated, legalisation will continue for three months. A constitution emphasising member control has been prepared as a guideline for taxi associations, and most associations have accepted it. It is hoped that within three months provincial representatives will have been elected to allow for a National Conference to elect a National Taxi Council. People are being trained to run service stations and retail outlets in accordance with the Taxi Recapitalisation Program. The final report on the process is with the Minster of Trade and Industry, who heads the program, who will deliver this report by the end of September.
The Minister also commented briefly on a transport protocol that is being implemented with SADC, and on the transformation of the Department of Transport, which now has vigorous, young leadership.
A brief overview of the budget was given outlining four options for increasing the budget above baseline. Extra funding has been requested for AARTO from the National Treasury and it has been agreed that unspent money will roll over for this purpose. Money has also been requested for rail capital and for roads, but a proposed cut of R 136 million below baseline by the Treasury is especially problematic as a delay in road maintenance means greater maintenance costs in subsequent years. The National Treasury proposed only half the amount requested for the taxi process by the Department and the final result is a proposed budget cut of R 14 million below baseline.
A member asked whether it was not to the disadvantage of the public to have transport handled by two departments. The Minister replied that currently there is a need for both departments, but that transport policy formulation must remain with the Department of Transport. Any disadvantages resulting from the presence of two departments are offset by the close working relationship between them.
The same member asked for the Minister's comments on road and rail freight. The Minister noted that lack of law enforcement on overloading makes the 'playing fields' between road and rail freight uneven. While road freight would always remain important in South Africa, rail freight must play a larger role and this will only occur when overloading regulations are enforced to level the playing fields.
Mr Schneemann (ANC) commented on the disrespect for the law shown by drivers and the increase in road rage and asked how this will be dealt with considering that a change is needed in the attitude of drivers. The Minister agreed that there is great disrespect for the law, but said that visible policing and effective law enforcement could combat this. Both AARTO and RTMC will help in this respect as will the Arrive Alive campaign's focus on speed. The tightening up on the requirements for professional driver's licences is also important in this regard.
Mr Schneeman (ANC) commented on rail freight and noted that while the turnaround of Spoornet was good, basic operational difficulties detracted from rail (as opposed to road) as a better means of freighting. The Minister agreed, but added that Spoornet was participating with his department on improving operational efficiency.
Ms Taljaard (DP) inquired about the extent of policy coordination and stated that there was an argument for an integrated approach at the local level with a broader regulatory body to oversee competition and subsidies. The Minister stated that policy coordination did exist between departments. After the National Land Transport Transition Bill (NLTT) comes into effect and the transportation authorities are in place the other elements will be taken care of. Transport authorities will consider these matters and attempt to bring agencies together.
Ms Taljaard (DP) asked whether there had been a study on the impact of the oil shocks on the transport budget. The Minister said that the oil shocks had not been specifically examined but that it would be discussed together with the Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs.
Mr Cronin (ANC) expressed a desire to see the department do some of the initiation in implementing, for example, RTMC as there are lengthy delays in implementation and a sense of urgency is required. The Minister disagreed due to the political sensitivity of the Provinces. The Provinces resent the initiation of action at a national level and the department therefore needs authorisation from the Provinces before proceeding. Mr Cronin replied that the Committee should be sensitised to the cause of blockages in the process so that pressure could be brought to bear on their parties to speed up the process, and to enable the Committee to review the reasons for slow implementation.
A member asked what the problems were with regard to implementing AARTO and the RTMC. The Minister replied that AARTO was experiencing practical difficulties, for example the creation of the new enforcement agency and the office of the Registrar.
The member followed up by asking what guidelines were being used to determine where the AARTO and RTMC legislation would be implemented initially. A departmental representative highlighted a number of guidelines including vehicle population, areas of least payment of fines and existing infrastructure. According to these criteria Gauteng was identified as the main priority area and Pretoria volunteered to test the implementation of the enforcement agency. Any errors observed in Pretoria will then be corrected before expanding the program.
Mr Farrow (DP) asked if the investigations by the CAA had been sufficient in combating pilot's licence fraud. The Minister answered that there is not 'a single commercial pilot who has piloted a plane pursuant to a licence obtained by fraud'. He stressed that all the commercial pilots were fully qualified and that no such problems existed in commercial airlines. The problem exists with respect to private aircraft and is under investigation. Generally the CAA is working satisfactorily and there is nothing to suggest any involvement in fraud by the CEO although he has nevertheless been charged and remains suspended until the conclusion of legal proceedings. The CAA has reviewed its licensing system.
A member asked how far advanced the Provinces were with regard to the NLTT. The Minister replied that regulations by Provinces and National Government should be promulgated by the end of the month.
The Minister excused himself from the meeting and directed further questions to Mr Lisa Mangcu of the Department.
Mr Farrow (DP) asked what is being done to combat the forging of the new driver's licence cards. Mr Mangcu replied that after awarding the tender, provision was made for a supply of hand-held scanners to law enforcement agencies to allow on-site licence verification. There has been a delay in the procurement of these scanners from America due to compliance with ISO and SABS standards. By Christmas at least 500 such scanners will be available, but in the interim law enforcement agencies are encouraged to verify licences through their offices telephonically.
Mr Farrow (DP) asked whether medical examinations would be required for professional drivers. Mr Mangcu said that medical testing and police clearance was required on original application for a professional licence, but no such medical testing was needed for renewal of the licence. The department has consequently proposed a stringent medical examination every 2 years on renewal of the licence combined with a compulsory advanced driving course. These proposals have been presented to MINCOM but require a consensus from the Provinces.
Ms Shilubane (ANC) asked whether it was possible to prevent people travelling from one province to another to obtain driver's licences. Mr Mangcu responded that since the start of the year there has been a proposal for the geographical binding of licences with permission granted to the Premier to exempt certain categories of drivers, such as students. Provinces, however, believe that people have a right to be tested anywhere for their licences. The department considers that the method of K53 testing encourages the purchase of a fake licence and this testing should therefore be revisited. A uniformed person should not carry out testing as this is intimidating, and it is very expensive to be retested after an initial failure. Computerised learner's licence testing will remove human intervention, pressure from the applicant and the risk of bribery. Simulated tests prior to the actual learner's test are also being considered.
Mr Abrahams (UDM) expressed a concern with regard to the response of the Treasury towards the maintenance of roads and asked whether there was an intention to reconsider the permissible maximum tonnages on roads. Mr Mangcu said that the South African limit is 9 tons per axle. At the moment the lack of enforcement means that it pays to overload. Assistance is required from the MECs in this regard and the development of weigh stations is being considered with bodies like PPP. There is a move within SADC to increase the load to 10 tons per axle and the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) has issued a directive to increase the tolerance margin to 10% from 5%. After protest from the department this has again been reduced to 5%.
A member enquired as to the role of Toyota in the taxi process. Mr Makakwane indicated that at the time of closing the tenders, Toyota had not responded and so far there is no indication of their becoming involved.
The meeting was adjourned.
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