A large delegation from the Department of Transport (DOT), led by Ms Dipuo Peters, Minister of Transport, delivered its Annual Performance Plan for 2015/16 and its Strategic Plan for 2015/16-2019/20. It dealt, among other things, with four key service delivery areas: road rehabilitation, road safety, rural access and public transport. It outlined the Department's “to-do list” in each of its seven programmes -- administration, integrated transport planning, rail, road, civil aviation, maritime, and public transport -- except administration. In most cases, this involved submissions to Parliament. It also included a rough breakdown of the distribution of funds to Departmental entities.
Committee members asked questions which in most cases concerned their own provinces. The questions were not responded to in the meeting, and the Departmental delegation was asked to submit written responses within three days, which they undertook to do.
There was some confusion around the budget. There seemed to have been some misunderstanding about what financial information the Department was expected to present. A detailed budget was circulated, but was not discussed.
Committee minutes of meetings on 14 and 19 May were considered. The minutes of 14 May were adopted without amendments. The minutes of 19 May were adopted with one minor amendment.
After welcoming the Department of Transport delegation, which included The Minister and Deputy Minister, the Acting Chairperson said the former Chairperson, Mr L Suka (ANC, Eastern Cape), had been redeployed to the Nelson Mandela Bay metro as the chief whip, and that he would serve as Chairperson until the leadership of the NCOP had appointed a new permanent Chairperson. The Department of Transport delegation then introduced themselves, and the Minister took the floor to introduce the Department's presentation.
Minister’s Opening remarks
Ms Dipuo Peters, Minister of Transport, said that the Director-General of the Department of Transport (DOT) had fallen ill the day before and had asked Mr Mathabatha Mokoena, Deputy Director-General for Public Transport, to deliver the presentation in his place. She then gave an overview of the Department's activities since their last meeting.
The DOT had taken steps to fill staff vacancies, especially at the senior management level, and the Director-General had been appointed in March. They were also engaging stakeholders with the aim of getting the National Transport Master Plan (NTMP) elevated from a departmental to a national plan. It had been working on the National Scholar Transport draft policy, which had now been adopted by Cabinet, and would soon be presented for consideration by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). It had also been working on the rail policy, and Cabinet had decided that further consultation between the Department of Transport and the Department of Public Enterprises was needed. A memorandum of understanding between these two departments regarding the interim Rail Economic Regulator had already been signed, however. The Department was also busy with a Civil Transport Economic Regulator, an instrument similar to the energy regulator, which would consolidate its regulatory processes.
Reporting back on their progress regarding the Moloto Rail Corridor, the Minister said that the Limpopo and Mpumalanga -- but not yet Gauteng -- provinces had given permission for the Moloto Road, the R573, to be declared a national road.
She ended by saying that later in the year, the DOT would have to undertake an institutional review of the agencies in the Roads branch. At present, there was a great deal of overlap between their mandates. Also this year, the Road Safety Advisory Council would be appointed. This process was expected to be complete by the end of June. She then handed the floor to Mr Mokoena, who delivered the bulk of the Department's presentation.
Department of Transport Presentation
In his presentation, Mr Mokoena followed closely the accompanying document, which combined the Department's Annual Performance Plan for 2015/16 and its Strategic Plan for 2015/16-2019/20. He described the Department's vision and mission, core values and legislative mandate, and went through its key service delivery areas over the Medium Term Economic Framework (MTEF) period, which were road rehabilitation, road safety, rural access and public transport.
Road rehabilitation was the responsibility of the individual provinces. It would be important that conditions were attached to the funds allocated for this purpose, to ensure they were properly spent. Mr Mokoena broke down the individual provinces' targets. They would reduce road fatalities in line with United Nations targets through legislation changes, awareness programmes and improved law enforcement. The expansion of public transport into rural areas was an area of concern. The Rural Transport Strategy had been only minimally implemented. He admitted that the Department faced a serious challenge in getting taxi operators to buy into its integrated transport plan, and that taxi recapitalisation was proceeding slowly. He also admitted that they had a challenge in filling employment vacancies. It had been made more difficult because, like almost all departments, they had been requested to reduce their compensation of employees.
He outlined the Department's “to-do list” in each of its seven programmes -- administration, integrated transport planning, rail, road, civil aviation, maritime, public transport -- except administration. He ended with a rough breakdown of the Department's budget for 2015-16, including several conditional grants and the public-private partnership that would undertake the Moloto Rail Corridor project.
Mr S Mthimunye (ANC, Mpumalanga) said that for as long as they had been operating, taxi operators had been a law unto themselves, and did not always act in the interests of the commuters. He asked what the Department planned to do to change this situation. It often took several years for provincial governments to implement national laws and this had serious consequences. He thanked the Minister for initiating the Moloto Rail Corridor project, and asked what economic spinoffs might now be explored. Perhaps the whole area could be declared a special economic development zone.
Ms M Dikgale (ANC, Limpopo) also congratulated the Department for the initiation of the Moloto Rail Corridor project. She reported that on a visit to the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, she had come across many unused buses.
Mr M Khawula (IFP, Kwazulu-Natal) referred to taxi recapitalisation, and asked the Department to clarify what exactly constituted an “old” taxi. He also said that a promised investigation into the Port Shepstone – Harding railway line had not happened. The provinces often hired private companies to carry out road maintenance, but in his province the work was often of a very low standard.
Dr Y Vawda (EFF, Mpumalanga) asked what the Department's plans for the integrated public transport network were in Mbombela. He commended the vision of the strategic plan, but asked whether the Department had any plans to ensure that universities provided the sort of training that would give them a workforce that was competent to realise the vision. He stressed the importance of urban rail networks worldwide, although he recognised that, as a product of apartheid, the taxi operators had to be accommodated in any future plans.
Mr B Nthebe (ANC, North West Province) asked what the Department was doing to eliminate non-adherence to grant conditions.
Mr Mthimunye agreed that the freight transport burden had to be lifted from the roads and transferred to the country's under-utilised rail network.
Mr Makue pointed out that the presentation had not included financial figures. He suggested that another meeting should be called to give the Department an opportunity to explain how their plans contributed to the African Union's Agenda 2063.
The Minister said she would ask the relevant Directors-General, who were part of the delegation, to respond to the Committee’s more technical questions.
Mr Mokoena said that they had a presentation document on hand that described their finances in detail, but that a full account of their finances would take another hour.
The Chairperson insisted that the Department provide at least a rough breakdown of their finances. In view of the time, he suggested that the Department should return written responses to the Committee's questions, instead of answering them directly.
The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Department of Transport went through the same figures that had been given earlier by Mr Mokoena.
This was not exactly what the Committeee had been expecting. Mr Mthimunye was disappointed with the Department's response, and asked if a more comprehensive budget could be delivered by the end of the day. The CFO said he would send a document containing the elaborated figures immediately.
It emerged that there had been some communiction breakdown. The Minister said that rough financial figures had in fact been given, although they were not in the exact form the Committee had been expecting. She also pointed out that the meeting had been brought forward by ten days.
Mr Vawda agreed with the Minister.
The Chairperson accepted the Minister's remarks. He asked what sort of time frame the Committee could expect for the Department's written responses. He hoped they could be returned within three days.
Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, Deputy Minister of Transport, said that the Committee would need three days between adopting the Department's budget and the budget vote. This would determine the time frame for the Department's responses. She expressed some doubt that three days would be sufficient for the Department to return their responses.
The Minister, however, undertook to return the responses within three days.
The Chairperson asked the Committee if there were any objections to him signing a statement to the effect that they had concluded their deliberations on the Department of Transport budget. There were no objections, and he signed the statement.
He thanked the Department for their submission and turned to Committee business.
Adoption of minutes
The minutes of the 14 May were adopted without amendments. The minutes of 19 May were adopted with one minor amendment.
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that they would be debating two budgets on Wednesday. These were for the Departments of Tourism and Labour.
One final matter was discussed in private.
The meeting was adjourned.