Committee Oversight Reports on visits to various Transport entities

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02 June 2015
Chairperson: Ms D Magadzi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Transport met to consider and adopt four oversight reports on its visits in November 2014 to the Cross Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA ) and SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and visits in February 2015 to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) and the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). The Reports set out recommendations and observations, and were intended to assist the Department in its work.

Critical challenges had, in particular, been highlighted with the cross-border services in Free State/Lesotho, and a court case was pending in Free State. Since most of the recommendations related to adherence to agreements, the Committee would need to follow up, and it was suggested that a continuous mechanism should be set up for communication with stakeholders. The Committee should emphasise the need to deal with issues promptly. It should be stressed that any agreements were actually between national government levels in RSA and Lesotho, not the Province. Concerns were also noted that the SAPS were not dealing equally with all complaints of damage to property, and some people were continuing to operate, and to affect others' operations, without permits. The recommendation calling on the Minister to try to resolve the impasse was re-phrased.

One Member proposed that full and immediate funding must be provided to SAMSA, who had struggled for years with inadequate budget. A particular concern was noted that although the Department had said that it would be presenting legislation to correct the situation, nothing was now listed in the programme. There was also some urgency in addressing sustainability since many SAMSA staff were nearing retirement. The Chairperson reminded Members that a suggestion had been made that the Committee should be tracking all requests to the Department. It was agreed that a full report by the Department on maritime policy was expected in the next 90 days, following up also on what could be done with Phakisa and sea and rescue missions.

The Report on PRASA highlighted the success of the Nerve Centre but one recommendation was that a health centre, fixed or mobile, was needed. The Committee was impressed by the use of technology, and PRASA was hosting other SADC countries who were investigating this work. The Committee urged PRASA to extend these kinds of initiatives to KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape, as well as the model whereby it was generating income.

The ATNS Report generated little discussion. However, Members suggested that two critical recommendations were needed for the SACAA Report - firstly, the need for this body to align with the Public Finance Management Act, and secondly the need to amend the legislation. Members noted that the Department, whilst promising legislation last year, had not produced it within the promised timelines and now was suggesting that it would only be finalised in later years. The Department would be urged to produce a satisfactory report detailing exactly what it was intending to do, within the next 90 days, failing which the Committee would work with the CEOs to bring a Committee Bill to make amendments to the SACAA and AARTO legislation to bring it in line. Members commented that the Department seemed to regard Committee recommendations as "an optional extra" and this was of concern. It was decided that a three-person Working Group would be set up, once this Report was adopted, to review what would need to be done.

Minutes of 26 May 2015 were adopted.

Members then briefly discussed the Scholar Transport Policy. This Committee had planned a joint briefing with the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, on the Policy, but had been unable to attend and it seemed that in the meantime the Policy was adopted by Cabinet. The Chairperson stressed that this did not preclude this Committee from considering it, and Members were urged to do preliminary work to prepare themselves prior to the Department briefing the Committee on the Policy at the next meeting.  He wanted to see the Transport Policy taking the centre at the implementation of this document. He suggested that this discussion should be shelved for another day, and that the Committee must be fully prepared when the Department came to present on the policy. Members indicated that they had concerns about how the Policy would be implemented across all spheres.

Meeting report

Chairperson's opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that the purpose of the Draft Committee Oversight Reports (the Reports) was to make recommendations to the Department of Transport (DOT or the Department). The observations made at the Free State /Lesotho borders had highlighted some critical challenges with the Department in the Free State. There was a court case in Free State, and the Committee would need to follow up. 

She noted that the oversight reports would highlight that in certain programmes there were legislative issues that were hampering the activities of some of the institutions visited. This was so particularly with Air Traffic Navigation Services (ATNS). Another was South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) which also complained that it was not fully compliant with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Accounting systems were also raised by some of the parastatals.

These Reports would now need to be adopted, and the recommendations and observations considered holistically. She emphasised the importance of the visit to the Cross Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA). It might be that the Committee would have to go and check the situation with other borders, for instance Lebombo and Beitbridge leading to other SADC regions. There were SADC protocols setting out how countries should cope with crisis situations. Other agreements - such as the SA Customs Union (SACU) - dealt with border issues.

Members' requests

Before moving to the reports, Mr M De Freitas (DA) said that the Committee had raised an issue and concerns about the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO). The Committee had been intending to look at that, but due to other sittings it had not been able to and he asked if it might be discussed at a later stage.  This Committee was also due to have had a meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. A draft had been to Cabinet, but not to this Committee, of the transport policy.

Mr C Hunsinger (DA) also spoke to the Scholar Transport policy, saying he knew that the Committee was sent a presentation at some stage, but he still had concerns with the final draft.

The Chairperson explained that on the day when the Scholar Transport Policy was outlined to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, it clashed with a joint plenary on energy, which this Committee had been asked to attend. The Policy had gone to Cabinet, but that would not stop this Committee from discussing the issues further.

Answering Mr De Freitas, she said that a two-day workshop on AARTO would be scheduled soon. The Department had requested six to eight hours to present and brief on AARTO and so she would be pushing those discussions to the workshop for the following week. When the Department of Transport did present on the scholar transport, the Committee would be ready to discuss additional matters.

Mr De Freitas asked, in respect of recommendations, whether  the Committee Secretariat or Chairperson would schedule that regulations would have to be dealt with this year.

The Chairperson responded that could be part of the recommendations, but an action plan was needed, and discussions on how to achieve that and build it into the Committee's agenda and programmes would be needed. She suggested that, for the moment, that issue be parked, and later the Committee would consider how to deal with its strategic plan, how to implement all the Acts that spoke to each other, how to deal with any overlaps.

Committee Reports on oversight visits
Ms S Boshielo (ANC) proposed that the Secretariat should take the Committee through the Report, and then Members would check the recommendations.

Mr C Hunsinger wanted to point out a recommendation, but was interrupted by the Chairperson.

The Chairperson pointed that there was a proposal that the Secretariat read the report page by page with Members.

Mr De Freitas and Mr G Radebe (ANC) agreed that this procedure should be followed.

Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA) Report

The Committee Secretary went through the draft report page by page.

Mr Hunsinger pointed out that the recommendations nearly all related to legislative reviews and bilateral agreements. In points 1.6.1 to 1.6.3, it was recommended that agreements were adhered to. Under point 1.5.2, the Committee could fully engage with the operators. He suggested that the Committee should consider including a follow up or mechanisms to engagements, and that should be part of the recommendations. He would like to see a continuous mechanism through which stakeholders could communicate

Mr M Sibande (ANC) thought that when going through the document page by page with the Secretariat, the Committee would be making corrections and then make any additions.

The Chairperson asked if there were any corrections.

Ms S Xego-Sovita (ANC) noted a minor correction on page 1 of the Report, regarding the delegation, pointing out that she was not part of the delegation as she was with the Portfolio Committee on Tourism at that time.

Ms Boshielo commented on recommendation 1.6.1, and thought that the Committee needed to write a letter to the Department of Transport. When it had come to the Committee, it had indicated that it would take a long time to deal with the issues. The draft, however, must be done, so the Department must be made aware of that, and time frames should be specified.

The Chairperson responded that this would be added as part of the recommendation.

Ms Boshielo referred to recommendation 1.6.2 under Bilateral Agreements. She suggested that this be left at Ministerial level, as officials were not interested in solving the problem.

The Chairperson commented on the "Observations" part of the Report. The Task Team had reported that the Free State Provincial Government was "blowing hot and cold" depending upon what suited it at the time. There was, however, some movement, with the national and provincial governments and the Lesotho authorities working together. There was some kind of closure from the Free State Provincial Government, although there were not three parties - the agreements were actually between the Republic of South Africa and Lesotho. There was an agreement that was assented to by both the Prime Minister of Lesotho and the President of the RSA.

The Chairperson noted that another observation was made that properties were being damaged. South African Police Service (SAPS) seemed to selectively choose how to deal with this issue. Communities were not assisted by SAPS, especially when they were legitimate permit holders.

Another observation related to the permits that were being issued. Some people were breaking the law and did not have permits, making it also difficult for others who did have permits to trade. In Free State, a challenge was that residents there believed they should be given permits first. The C-BRTA was meant to ease the traffic flow between South Africa and Lesotho.

Mr Sibande said that all points were very relevant. He suggested that the Committee could accept this report, that the Committee have a right to identify the urgent issues and that it was on the right track, but not to open up these issues again.

Mr Radebe noted point 1.6.4 under the Recommendations. The Committee had not received quarterly reports in the second or third quarter. He requested that a follow up be done.

The Chairperson responded that she had received the report and would request the Committee Secretary to circulate it.

The Chairperson raised concerns that one of the recommendations being made to the Minister as that the impasse must be cleared at the Lesotho border. She reiterated that C-BRTA Act was enacted to enable the free flow of freight and passengers.

Mr De Freitas agreed with the Chairperson, and thought this recommendation could be phrased in a more diplomatic way, and made suggestions on the rephrasing.

Members adopted the Report, with amendments.

South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) report

The Committee Secretary went through the draft report page by page.

Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) noted, on page 8 of the Report, a reference to R71 million, but the Secretariat had read it out as R75 million, and he questioned which was correct.

The Chairperson confirmed that the written amount was correct.

Mr Hunsinger also referred to that amount, saying the figure was under-funded. There was a link to recommendations on page 9, especially the last point, as to who should engage and to what means and purpose. This reflected on the budgets for six years back. It may not be possible to change and fund everything and more detail was required, as well as direction.

The Chairperson asked exactly what Mr Hunsinger was proposing.

Mr Hunsinger said that he proposed that there should be immediate and full funding. It was necessary to think about who should engage on this matter.

Mr Ramatlakane’s understanding was that the recommendation would go to the executive authority, in this case the Minister of Transport. Through the Department of Transport, there was appropriate funding to the transport agencies. Once this Report was adopted and a resolution passed in the House, the recommendation would go to the Minister. He suggested that in the next 90 days, the Committee should get a briefing on what had been done by the executive authority, to keep it abreast of the developments.

Ms Boshielo pointed out that. looking at the Bills and policy that the Department had presented to the Committee, some of the legislation and policies that the Committee had called for were not on the programme.

Mr Radebe made some reference to the green/blue economy. He said SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) raised the issue of the shortage of skills capacity. He also commented that it was necessary to plan for sustainability, as many of the current employees were nearing retirement. The Minister had raised the skills capacity, and the need to put more focus and finance into sustaining this entity.

Mr Ramatlakane added that there should be a specific recommendation to review the policy on this agency, and ask the executive to revert again with a report-back in 90 days. The recommendations must be made specifically

The Chairperson said that in one meeting, the Committee had raised the need for a "template" of matters being discussed with the Department where a follow-up was needed. She summarised that within the next 90 days, the Committee would expect the Department to brief it on its progress on the maritime policy.

She added that when the Department of Transport was dealing with the strategic plans, it was noted that the Chief Executive Officer of SAMSA had recently arrived back from Singapore.  There was a lot that the Department should be able to do to engage with and assist SAMSA and it must be able to deal with the Phakisa operations, because SAMSA had asked, last November, to have a policy to deal with Phakisa and sea and rescue missions. The Chairperson added that through the Minister’s representatives who sat on the board of SAMSA,  the issues were revealed. She did not think that the Board should sit for much longer without engaging on those.

The Report was adopted with amendments as suggested.

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) 

The Committee Secretary took the Committee briefly through the report. No corrections were suggested.

Ms Boshielo said that under Observations, the Committee had noted that the Nerve Centre was to be completed in April 2015. She was not sure if this had been done.

Ms Xego-Sovita said that although she was not on the visit to the Nerve Centre, during the walk-about  to the back station, the Committee had identified a shortfall of a health clinic, and the Committee had said that it wanted to ask the Minister of Health to set up even a mobile clinic for that busy station.

Mr Ramatlakane mentioned that the Report did not set out the Committee's impressions at the time of the visit. PRASA was really busy with cutting edge technology, and the Committee had been impressed, and also learned, during the briefing, that other SADC delegations were coming to see and learn from that particular Centre.

The Chairperson stated that the recommendations included urging PRASA to duplicate efforts at the Centre in other areas, such as Western Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal. Because South Africa was getting new locomotives and new rolling stock, it would be important to have the programme move to other areas. She reiterated the observations on the Park Station, and said there were close to a million people going through that facility on a daily basis. Park Station was now user-friendly, and the Committee needed to commend PRASA for that type of facility. It was also making money out of the property, and if it could replicate this to other areas, it would generate income for PRASA.

The Report was adopted, with technical amendments.

Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS)

The Committee Secretary took the Members through the draft report, page by page. Members agreed that it appeared to be a true reflection.

The Chairperson said that Mr Ramatlakane had proposed that all reports must include pictures to show that the Committee was indeed "walking the talk’, 

The Report was adopted.

South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA)

The Committee Secretary took the Members through the draft Report, page by page.

Mr Ramatlakane thought there were two critical recommendations missing. One was the need to align to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). The second related to the SACAA Act and governance structures, and failing alignment here, the Department would be continuing to run the Agency without aligning it properly to legislation and policy.

The Chairperson suggested that recommendations to this effect needed to be added.

Ms Boshielo shared the same concern that the alignment with the PFMA was not listed as part of the plan for the current financial year.

The Chairperson reminded Members that one of the complaints of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) related to the international challenges to the legislation. The Committee decided it would amend the legislation, and, if necessary, work itself with the SACAA CEO to bypass the legal unit within the Department and the Minister. The Committee could be a legislator, and formulate, as well as deal with laws to be taken to the House.

Ms Xego-Sovita said she was not sure if this comment would fit well into the Report. She suggested that it might be highlighted rather than included as a specific recommendation.

She commented that one of the presenters had also said that SACAA had purchased office space that it would develop, since it was expensive to rent. She would like to see this point also highlighted in the Report, so that a commitment was noted when the Committee did follow-up oversight visits.

The Chairperson said that in both SACAA and ATNS, difficulties with the legislation had been raised.

Mr Ramatlakane said that the observations had not highlighted that point, as a point of priority for the agencies. If carried through to the recommendations, it would "shake the tree" of the Department to get it to prioritise. If not, he agreed that the Committee could initiate a Private Members' review. He suggested that it should, again, be put in the context that within 90 days,  the Committee wanted to hear from the Department if there was progress. failing which the Committee would start a Committee Bill process.

Mr Radebe requested permission to visit ATNS and SACAA, because he missed the opportunity.

The Chairperson declined, but commented that he had "missed out…big time”.

Ms Boshielo thought that Mr Ramatlakane's point was worth raising as a general observation. Even when the Department was present, the Committee would take decisions, but it seemed that the Department was regarding the recommendations in reports as "an optional extra". At some point all the agencies interacted with the Department. It was shocking to her that whatever was being raised by this Committee was just not getting done.

The Chairperson made a proposal to set up a working group to review the Private Members Bill  (sic) which would be raised by the Portfolio Committee. This group should look at time frames. There was already another Bill that the Committee was dealing with, the Merchant Shipping Bill, but this should not involve too much work. She emphasised that if the Committee did start working with the CEOs in a group, this would demonstrate to the Department that the Committee was taking its job seriously. The Committee had reminded the Department to bring to it all the Bills that would be dealt with between now and the end of the 2015/16 financial year. The Committee had asked for this by 31 May. However, it knew that the Department would not meet that deadline. She had thought that the AARTO Amendment Bill was one of them. There were numerous other Bills that the Department had raised, as proposals. Last year, it had said that bills would be coming through this year. The strategic plan this year listed bills to come up in 2017 to 2019. She pointed out that there was a unit in the Department to deal with legislation, and it was supposed to make sure that proper protocols were being followed. Somewhere, it seemed that there was a challenge, hence her proposal to have three members to look into this matter as a group.

Mr Ramatlakane fully agreed with the principle and the three-person team. This should be implemented when the House adopted the Committee Report.

The Chairperson pointed out that the full Committee was not abdicating its duties as the group would be updating the Committee. Proposals from the CEOs would be obtained.

Members adopted the Report.

Adoption of Committee Minutes

Minutes of 26 May 2015 were tabled, and the Chairperson took Members through page by page.

The Minutes were adopted with no amendments.

Scholar transport policy: Further deliberations

The Chairperson returned to the Scholar Transport issue, and reiterated that the Committee was supposed to join the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education to get a briefing, but had not been able to do that because this Committee was participating in an Energy EPC meeting. The Committee would have re-convene to look at the Scholar Transport Policy, which had already served in Cabinet. She was not sure of its current status. She asked for guidance from Members how they would like to have the matter discussed.

Mr Radebe questioned whether the Cabinet had adopted this document, as it was dealt by the Portfolio Committee of Basic Education previously. If adopted by Cabinet he asked what would happen if it was submitted again.

The Chairperson responded that because of the separation of powers, the Committee still had authority to deal with matters, despite Cabinet also engaging on these issues. This Committee may hold its own opinions. The Committee would hear further on what had transpired when the Department gave the next presentation.

She mentioned challenges like the one in the Eastern Cape involving a head on collision of a combi carrying scholars. The longer the country procrastinated on this policy, the more it would become difficult to deal with the issues.

Mr Hunsinger noted a lot of concerns in the model for management and other issues in the documents, which he had outlined in the first draft copy document to the Chairperson.

Mr Ramatlakane said that he was unsure about the status; was this a draft document, or moving on still to a final document and would all levels of government, national and provincial, have the policy before it was enacted? He thought it would be implementable if all were on the same lines.  He wanted to see the Transport Policy taking the centre at the implementation of this document. He suggested that this discussion should be shelved for another day, and that the Committee must be fully prepared when the Department came to present on the policy.

The Chairperson responded that the Department would be discussing Scholar Transport issues in the next meeting. The Chairperson believed that once the policy came from national level it must cascade down to provincial level.

Mr Hunsinger added that he could foresee huge complications, if there was shared responsibility of three spheres of government.

Mr De Freitas agreed with the suggestion that the Department present. He asked what version of the document the Committee would be working.

The Chairperson said that Members should read this draft document to inform themselves before the Department gave its presentation.

The meeting was adjourned.

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