There were three presentations from the Department of Transport. The first was a briefing on the National Learner Transport policy. The Department said the policy had been approved and adopted by Cabinet two weeks ago and the Department dwelt on the implementation aspect of the policy. The policy process started in 2007.and underwent a rigorous consultation process with stakeholders. The main issues that emerged from that process were accessibility and the safety of learner transport and the inputs were taken into consideration. The Department had also worked in partnership with the Department of Basic Education in developing the policy.
The Department had intervened in the issue of learner transport because the current state of affairs was not desirable or ideal. Many learners were in danger because operators utilised unauthorised vehicles which were often not safe. Many learners were walking long distances and crossing dangerous and unsafe areas.
The National Treasury had suggested that the function of the policy should be in one place for an easier funding mechanism. There were 507 318 learners who were in serious need of learner transport services which illustrated the need to change the situation of learner transport.
The desired outcome of the policy was proper regulation of operations for a timeous delivery of service in terms of permits and operating licences and other operation related regulations. Enforcement of regulation would be a way of reducing accidents and coordinating in planning and implementation. In terms of the policy the Department would produce guidelines on the minimum requirements for learner transport operators and specify vehicle standards and the quality of the vehicles through a model tender document. The policy would also address areas where the service could no longer be sustained by operators by discarding differentiated tariff rates. The policy would ensure that there was uniformity in tariff structures so that operators could not under quote in tender documents just to win the tender and later fail to sustain the service.
Monitoring of performance would be on proper contract management in terms of performance systems and penalty mechanisms for non-compliance which needed to be strictly adhered to. These issues would be factored into public transport contracts. Institutional mechanisms such as School Governing Bodies would also be used in identifying learners but also the monitoring of the services.
The policy only catered for learners who were defined as such in the South African Schools Act. These were learners from Grade R up to Grade, 12 FET colleges were not included as suggested by the Department of Social Development. Nonetheless, the policy was not restrictive in terms of applicability as it applied to all learners but the main issues were affordability which would impact on sustainability of the whole programme. Lessons had been learned from the Shova Kalula bicycle programme, where the services were not at a level that they should be.
The vision of the policy was a safe, reliable and integrated transport service that catered for the needs of learners. The mission was that the mobility needs of learners be met through the provision of a safe, secure, reliable and affordable learner transport service to support social development and enhance future economic growth. The policy had several key elements one of which was the Institutional Framework for the implementation of learner transport. This mainly involved cooperation at inter-departmental levels. The National Learner Transport policy was cross referred to other legislation such as the National Road Traffic Act.
Members were concerned that learners in rural areas would be disadvantaged further if standard uniform tariffs were imposed as a result of different environmental and social factors between rural and urban areas. There were concerns raised about the Shova Kalula Programme as it was difficult to maintain and was unsustainable. Members were also worried that some of the bicycles from the programme might be some of the bicycles which were allegedly stolen and crossed into Zimbabwe.
The second presentation from the Department was an update on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project E-Toll New Dispensation. The Deputy President, together with the Ministers of Transport and Finance and the Premier of Gauteng, had announced the dispensation to the E-tolling project in Gauteng. An agreement had been reached after assessing the socio-economic impact of the e-tolling project on the residents of Gauteng. The report by the advisory panel which carried out the assessment was appointed by the Premier of Gauteng. The panel came up with a set of recommendations and the main one was that the user-pay principle should remain and that the e-tolling project should remain in place. The principles agreed to include new payment options which would safeguard the integrity of the fiscus and, in particular, SANRAL’s ability in continuing to raise funds and meet its obligations and the expectations of the people of South Africa.
The New Dispensation consisted of seven recommendations. These were registration, tariffs, reduced monthly caps, infrequent user regime, limit of travel cost, discount in particular to outstanding debt and compliance. The New Dispensation was a new tariff structure which featured a number of changes. It was a model that reduced payable e-toll fees and an equitable system where the user benefited and paid. The New Dispensation was not an amnesty for unpaid e-toll bills nor was it a system that did away with e-tolls as was known. It was not a system where those that did not use the roads had to pay nor was it a complicated model that would make things more difficult for users.
Members welcomed the presentation as it was a positive development. The Department was urged to communicate more with positive developments because if it did not others would be quick to report negative news.
The third presentation was a briefing by DoT on International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch Keeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel, (STCW-F) 1995. The Department was requesting the committee to approve the accession of the STCWF Convention so that South Africa would be party to the STCWF Convention which entered into force in September 2012.
The report was adopted.
Briefing by the Department of Transport on the Draft National Learner Transport Policy Presentation
Mr Mathabatha Mokonyama, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Public Transport, Department of Transport (DoT), said the purpose of the presentation was to present the approved National Learner Transport Policy.
The process of developing the policy began in 2007 and included a rigorous consultation process. The DoT had worked closely with the Department of Basic Education (DBE). The main issues that emerged even when conceptualising the policy were about accessibility, safety, issues around uncoordinated services, unscrupulous operators and also the behaviour of operators and non-standardised methods.
The final draft of the policy was taken to Cabinet in May 2015 and was approved. Currently the DoT was at the implementation, monitoring and evaluation phase. Like any other government document the policy would be taken to the language practitioners to streamline and edit the language before sending the policy to publishers for publishing.
Mr Makonyama said the Department intervened in the issue of learner transport because the current state of affairs was not desirable or ideal and in addition it was not a situation that the country could be proud of. There were issues of unauthorised vehicles and also un-roadworthy vehicles transporting learners, learners were walking long distances and crossing dangerous and unsafe areas. There was also uncoordinated transport planning which meant the designs were not informed by transport plans.
By way of example he showed Members a picture of learners crossing a stream which when full learners did not go to school as they could not cross the stream. Even when the stream was not that full it was an unbearable situation. Other pictures showed the driver's seat which showed exposed auto parts in the bus and fuel tanks. The pictures also showed transporting children in unsafe vehicles such as overloaded bakkies.
These were really the situations that children were being exposed to and the Department wanted the policy to address. The issues around funding and organisational coordination and funding had some challenges, the Department had a policy which would be implemented. Funding would always remain a challenge as there was no sufficient funding to cover all areas of the policy. Currently the country was spending close to R2 billion with the services available and this did not cover all the areas that were supposed to be covered. In terms of the policy, the need would obviously increase.
When the policy was being presented in Cabinet, the suggestions from Treasury were that it was very important for this function to be in one place so that a funding could be ring-fenced for this purpose.
The Committee was briefed on the total number of learners and the total number of schools that qualified for learner transport, as well as the total number of learners that qualified for scholar transport as compared to the actual learners that were actually being transported. The information showed that there were still challenges as 29 percent of the children who were supposed to be transported were not exposed to any scholar transport. Even those who were transported were not always dropped at the gates of the school yard and still had to leverage transport that travelled along main routes. If the policy was applied there were 507 318 learners who were in serious need of learner transport services.
The desired outcome of the policy was proper regulation of operations for a timeous delivery of service in terms of permits and operating licences and other operation related regulations. The sole purpose of regulating operations was to reduce accidents and enforce the regulations and laws. Also regulation would lead to a coordinated approach in relation to planning and implementation in terms of coordination, uniformity and standardisation. In terms of the policy the Department was expected to produce guidelines on the minimum requirements. The Department insisted on quality, safe vehicles and well-maintained vehicles. He would explain further in the presentation how a model tender document would be developed to ensure safety. For instance the document would specify vehicle standards and the quality of the vehicles.
Whilst the main focus was on the learners, there were also situations where in certain areas the services were not sustainable to operators. There were differentiated tariff regimes, some of which were unrealistic. For instance the rates per kilometre quoted on tender documents were clearly not sufficient. Normally transporters would quote low tariffs and within six months the service would collapse. The Department would intervene in terms of uniformity in tariff structures but would also take into consideration prevalent circumstances such as topography, type of terrain and so forth. The most important desired outcome was monitoring of performance. Normally monitoring was thought of in terms of monitoring the policy, but in essence monitoring would be on proper contract management in terms of performance systems and penalty mechanisms for non-compliance needed to be strictly adhered to. All these issues would have to be factored into public transport contracts.
The policy stipulated that all vehicles used to transport learners should be clearly identifiable and marked so that there was focused enforcement and focused monitoring and inspection. Therefore the vehicles needed to be recognisable. Policy focus was on quality of vehicles, performance and conduct of learner transport operators, enhancing road traffic discipline, ensuring effective planning in designs of rules and so forth as well as alignment and integration of transport operations and education needs. Transportation of learners was a transport matter and needed transport practitioners to manage, operate and administer. There were instances where educationists claimed the transport of learners was an education matter that was why in some provinces learner transport was still in the Education Department whilst in other provinces it was not. In six out of the nine provinces the function was with DoT.
Mr Makonyama said scope of applicability also took the Department some time to develop in terms of who was to be included and who was to be excluded. The Department took guidance from SASA which defined a learner. The Department therefore spoke of learners from Grade R to Grade 12. The Department of Social Development had suggested that learners in Grade RR should also be covered. There was also an argument that FET Colleges should also be covered. He did not think the policy was very restrictive in terms of application by cluster but the issues were around affordability and sustainability of the project. Obviously some people would argue that University students should also be covered by the policy.
The policy was thin in terms of material documentation which was about 60 pages long. Once taken to the publishers this would be even smaller because the Department wanted it to be a framework as much as possible. He pointed this out because in case there was criticism that some areas were left out.
The vision of the policy was a safe, reliable and integrated transport service that catered for the needs of learners. The mission was that the mobility needs of learners shall be met through the provision of a safe, secure, reliable and affordable learner transport service to support social development and enhance future economic growth.
The pillars for learner transport implementation were access to transport services, access to infrastructure, public transport turnaround strategy, Integrated Public Transport Plans (IPTNs), monitoring integrated planning and implementation of the programme, funding, legislation and regulation as well as capacity building. The tools to be used were targeted interventions through the road safety plan, rural transport development plan, law enforcement, contracting and remuneration framework, monitoring and evaluation guidelines, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and reporting. Any contract for this type of service needed to have issues around KPIs as it was more about performance management. Transporters were expected to perform according to expectations therefore penalties would be imposed when it came to non-performance.
Policy objectives and principles had been alluded to earlier in the presentation in terms of what the Department aimed to achieve. Likewise the key elements of the policy had also been addressed. Each key element had a policy statement. The policy statement for the key element of Institutional Framework for the implementation of learner transport was that the Department in terms of cooperation at inter-departmental levels. The Department was proposing institutional mechanisms including coordinating bodies at a national level between the Department and the Department of Education. Coordination was also called for at a provincial level in terms of departments responsible for transport and the departments responsible for education. The Department was also calling in the involvement of School Governing Bodies (SGBs) and the roles that they needed to play, for example the identification of learners but also the monitoring of the services.
The policy stipulated that learner transport planning was a joint responsibility of both the Provincial Department of Transport (PDOT) and those responsible for education. If municipalities would be the contracting authorities for learner transport, when developing the IPTAs learner transport services would have to be factored in. the Department was mindful of the fact that close to 18 million learners used public transport systems and not the learner transport service. The Department was also mindful that learner transport services could not be divorced from integrated public transport systems. As a result the role of municipalities came into play.
Learner transport safety and security was cross referred to the National Road Traffic Act. The criteria for learner transport beneficiaries was mostly the responsibility of the DBE as this department had to determine the need and DoT to plan, design and provide the service. In provinces where the function was still with education they would determine the need, use the model tender documents and provide the service. The policy document also talked of subsidised and non-subsidised services. A subsidised service was where the Department was talking about strict contract management and performance monitoring. In non-subsidised services it referred to situations where parents organised themselves to provide transport for the children, the Department would intervene in terms of safety and security of the learners. The policy covered both subsidised and non-subsidised learner transport services.
Another key policy focus area was to design well defined services which would include the type of infrastructure, pick-up and drop off points. This was pretty much the same as public transport services in terms of design which had to be well detailed. Regarding procurement of learner transport service where it was to be subsidised by the State, the Department indicated that only authorised operators with approved modes of transport would be contracted for learner transport provision. This did not mean that those who wanted to operate a service that was not subsidised would not be issued with operating licences. For obvious reasons any person who got a contract in public service transport the issue of operating licence was automatic and did not need to be gazetted.
Services were collapsing because of non-standardised tariffs. The Department would provide guidelines in terms of determining tariffs which should be standardised. Funding would be allocated from Treasury but there was very little in the policy in terms of how to leverage more funding from the private sector. But for obvious reasons where there were initiatives like mines sponsoring scholar transport, those kinds of initiatives within the prescripts or provisions of necessary legislation could be factored into the policy.
Initially there was a long chapter where the Department was integrating the issue around the provision of scholar transport with the Shova Kalula bicycle programme. At the time a qualifying distance of five kilometres was used, and then it was reduced to three kilometres. Upon further consultation it was said that three kilometres in a flat area was not the same as three kilometres in steep area. Then issues of distance were taken out as it was said that the situation and circumstances should dictate that. Also when it came to the issue of integration with Shova Kalula where it was very prescriptive it was now being used as a desired state of affairs but not very necessarily prescriptive because Shova Kalula was also not covered fully. The Department in the near future would not be able to cover the whole country in terms of what the Department would have wanted to do. DoT would have also encouraged walking as an exercise and not walking as punishment. There would still be some walking done from the learners' homes to the bus stops or public transport facilities. Unfortunately, the walking being done at the time was a form of punishment which needed to be addressed by the policy.
The concept of universal designs emphasised that the provision of learner transport should be accessible to everybody including people with disabilities. The new designs would be specific to the needs of target groups. For instance, if the target group was people with disabilities then purpose-designed vehicles would be built in terms of the designs. Also there should be universal accessibility in learner transport systems.
Areas of law enforcement were issues that were cross referred to the National Road Traffic Act but also talked about focused targeted law enforcement where and when necessary. That was partly why the Department was insisting on clearly marked identifiable vehicles for scholar transport. Under monitoring and evaluation an issue that came across strongly from Cabinet was the remark made earlier that monitoring and evaluation of the policy should go deeper to also talk about issues of the physical expansion of vehicles and staff. Although as indicated that was an issue of enforcing the contract itself, so it came to what would be the punitive measures in the contract itself and how the measures would enforce those areas.
DoT had provided timelines committing when actions would be carried out. The first action was finalising norms and standards in terms of operations, which had started some time ago and was being developed parallel with the policy drafting processes. The norms had been approved and adopted with the draft policy, they would now be finalised with the approved policy. The second action was assessing the cost and identifying funding sources for the policy. The matter had also been concluded in terms of the total cost of the policy itself. The action had been separated as it was a bit more complex.
The action regarding KPIs would be produced before the end of the year. Throughout the presentation the need for standardisation for learner transport services had been emphasised. The DoT would provide standardised model contracts normally called “model tender documents”. The model tender documents were in place as required by the NLTA which was available in public transport and had been gazetted already. The model tender document would also have to be gazetted so that those who implement scholar transport would then have to adhere to it. It would be cross referred to the NLTA as it was the responsibility of the Minister to introduce.
The NLTA amendments would be before the Cabinet Committee on 17 June 2015 and a week thereafter the amendments would be before Cabinet and then they would be on the way to Parliament before the Portfolio Committee. Key to the amendments to the NLTA was the designation of provinces as contracting authorities. Currently the function was with municipalities and not provinces. With the introduction of the RPTNs during the drafting of the NLTA, the assumption was that municipalities should be issuing ITPs and IPTAs and RPTNs as a result they would be in a position to contract for services to operate in their networks. This could only happen if there was enough capacity in municipalities which was not there. The anomaly was being rectified in the NLTA and it should also come in handy to strengthen the powers of provinces as contracting authorities for learner transport.
The sixth action concerned the development and implementation of a targeted National Learner Transport Road Safety Programme called the 365 Programme of the RTMCs and Provinces.
The seventh action was monitoring of the Learner Transport Programmes implementation which would be done on a quarterly basis.
The eight action was the implementation of the Shova Kalula programme and unfortunately it seemed it was left to the national Department to take the programme forward. The provinces were no longer implementing the programme. The national Department procured 3000 bicycles and the majority of provinces were reliant on the national Department stock. The practise had always been that the DoT would provide a portion and provinces would also provide a portion. As the programme got up-scaled there would be a need to resuscitate the after-service care of the bicycles themselves. There used to be repair shops and repair shop workshop managers in the past. The Dot was trying to see where the wheels came off and those would be the wheels to be tightened in terms of this programme.
There would also be the formation of institutional structures and committees that were provided for in the policy. The additional link with other entities within the Department such as S'hamba Sonke was to intervene in those areas where it was dangerous to cross rivers in terms of provision of infrastructure.
Within a month or two the Department would had developed an easy to read or easy to comprehend brochure or booklet that talked to the issues around the policy in terms of advocacy and marketing the policy. There was a need to go into serious communication and indicate to the people what the policy was all about. Issues of capacity building within the Department for national coordination and monitoring would be addressed.
There was also an initiative assisting municipalities as there was a low level of capacity in municipalities. The Department had intervened in about 12 cities on RPTS by developing IPTNs in selected municipalities that had been identified as very poor. The municipalities were being assisted in terms of developing the IPTNs. Two municipalities had been identified last year and the Department was proceeding to assist as per the provisions of the NLTA. The municipalities were supposed to develop the plans themselves, but where the Department could it assisted on a pilot basis.
The Public Transport Turn Around Plan and acceleration plans were also being finalised. The plan talked holistically to issues around integration of bus systems and rail, but it also talked about urgent intervention as the Department had not necessarily conceded but it was a reality that public transport was deteriorating. The Department was coming up with mechanism to ensure that it was given the recognition that it deserved. All the wonderful plans apart from the development of guidelines and minimum requirements and related stuff of the Turn Around Plan would be dependent upon the availability of funding. If more funds were available the Department would be able to deal with the issues. Also strengthening coordination of integrated planning between transport and education was a strategic action which had been alluded to earlier in the presentation that one would identify the need and the other would provide for the need.
The Department also indicated that it had the minutes from the Cabinet Committee approving and adopting the policy and had waited to see if there were conditions but there were none. The Department would be able to move with speed and the next immediate step was to take the document to language practitioners for editing, typos and language flow. There after the Department would channel the information into leaflets and brochures to then popularise the policy. Whilst doing that the Department would be developing guidelines and minimum requirements just like in legislation when operationalising an Act and dealing with issues around regulations. There would be no need for regulations here but there would be issues that might require legislative muscle to deal with. There was an opportunity as the NTLA was being amended to factor some of those things which require legislative changes.
Mr G Radebe (ANC) was concerned that high schools which had been turned into Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges were not covered in the policy. Once a policy stipulated a number for instance Grade R to Grade 12 it was restrictive if a learner outside these parameters were to be included it would be in violation of the policy. He asked what was meant by restrictive unless the Department was to take out the specification of Grade 12 to accommodate students that were going for basic education or higher education. The Department should find better terminology.
The policy should also address disparities in rural areas. In rural areas some schools had been changed strictly into maths and science schools and at some stage they were turning into FETs. He did not want other deserving students to be excluded because of a technical oversight. The Department should try to adjust to accommodate those in FET colleges. Universities were a different category but FETs were a gradual programme towards university. Universities tended to provide their own transport but transport was a challenge in the FETs. He was aware of two FET Colleges which were benefiting from scholar transport. He was worried about what would become of the FET Colleges, would they continue benefiting from the programme or not.
Ms S Xego-Sovita (ANC) could see that a large percentage of learners in rural Provinces were not being transported and that was a challenge. The challenge could never be addressed with the experience that she had regarding schools. If a teacher in a school was asked about the number of learners, naturally even she would want to know the purpose of the question as it dealt with the teacher’s work. There could never be proper planning if the actual number being planned for was not known and planning could not be precise if the issue of numbers in schools was not dealt with. Today it could be 40 percent of learners in the Eastern Cape not being transported but digging deeper and verifying it could be that there were no learners being transported. There was a need to work closely with DBE to verify the numbers in schools as that had to do with planning.
Ms Xego-Sovita was concerned about uniformity of services and tariff structures because there were rural roads and urban roads. If there was uniformity it meant that one day learners would be abandoned as some services collapsed because of the nature of roads. There was therefore a need to balance the issue of rural and urban roads, roads that were usable and roads that were not usable.
Another issue was the Shova Kalula which was not sustainable and very difficult to maintain. She advised the Department to consider donating the bicycles to schools and not individual learners as the school would be accountable. Donating the bicycles to rural learners was not ideal as some learners changed schools depending on things like feeding schemes. With such learners it was difficult to manage the bicycle as some parents were careless and learners could easily have the bicycle stolen. In that regard the problem that the Department was trying to resolve would not be solved. If the bicycles were donated to schools the school would account for the bicycle and would ensure that at the end of the term the bicycles would be collected and kept in schools. It would also be easier for the Department to trace the bicycles if donated to schools than donating to individual learners as it was also difficult to trace learners in rural areas.
The Department had said that the national government would oversee the implementation of the policy in consultation of relevant stakeholders including provinces. She thought the function would be with the provinces as it was closer to schools and the Department was the custodian of the policy. She was confused with the Department saying it would consult key stakeholders. The provinces were the key stakeholders and the Department would be working with them to implement the policy. She asked the Department to elaborate further on this.
Issues around the remuneration of learner transport operators were not different from her other point about urban roads and rural roads. If payment would be based on the kilometres travelled the service would surely collapse. Some operators would refuse to operate after winning a tender if the roads were not in good condition. The learners would be abandoned and there would be no service. If walking was to be encouraged the distance should also be considered. The children should not walk long distances to school and encourage group walking to minimise children’s vulnerability. Her key concern was the number of learners that were to be transported and there was a need to be realistic for planning purposes.
Mr T Mlaudzi (EFF) sought clarity on the eradication of the Light Delivery Vehicles (LVDs) transport carrying scholars as some of the LDVs failed to transport learners in rural areas because of the bad roads in rural areas. For instance in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape there were good taxis but they could not travel to where the people were because of the bad road infrastructure. What was the Department going to do about the bad rural road infrastructure? Normally it was bakkies which were not roadworthy that managed to utilise the bad roads. What was the Department’s strategy in dealing with these bad bakkies because on the other hand they were also assisting in transporting scholars?
DoT was assisting DBE in transporting scholars so why were DBE and even Treasury resisting releasing resources for this function? Much of the function was with DoT yet resources were with DBE. DBE should do as the Department of Public Works, for example, which was responsible for building schools and after completion the structure was handed over to DBE to utilise the structure. The money for constructing schools did not go to DBE nor did DBE manage the tender process for constructing the schools. The issue should be pushed to Cabinet through the Minister that the Committee was concerned that the resources were with DBE whilst the function was with DoT.
Mr C Hunsinger (DA) said he still had difficulties in understanding that the policy was moving in a more efficient environment by sharing the policy between two departments at a national level, 18 departments at a Provincial level and 278 Municipalities in the third sphere of government. He asked for insight from the Education Portfolio Committee as to what the feeling and reaction to the policy and also the sharing of the policy between the departments. He had heard the DoT saying in some provinces the function was driven by the DBE whilst in others it was by the DoT. He understood that it should be “either or” but currently the function was being shared.
The policy was intending to organise and regulate a very important aspect but he did not see anything on what would happen if everything that was intended was not complied with. Where were the teeth in the policy? There were talks of timeous delivery in the presentation but nothing on what would happen if it was not complied with.
Mr Hunsinger said he would like to see an improvement in the current situation where in the six demographically categorised age groups there were more learners in the younger age groups. This was used to inform the budget as an age-related number was always used for the next year. There was a risk of under-budgeting and this was too specific for the level of policy currently available. He pleaded for some aspects to go into detail as this was a national policy. He would like to see something that kept the contractor responsible in terms of an insurance cover that would cover different aspects and also the non-supply of service. An alternative service should be contracted at the expense of the insurance of the contracting party. He was highly concerned with the construction of the vehicles. The definitions of different kinds of vehicles in the policy was not specific enough. He would like to see a provision prohibiting self-modification of manufactured contractions just to increase the number of people that could be carried in these vehicles. The modifications could be done by a registered manufacturer to ensure safety.
Where and how would the tariff structures be regulated? The policy stipulated a guide which stated that a standardised measure of remuneration of subsidised learner transport should be based on total kilometres travelled. Factors such as road conditions and distance covered should determine cost of service, this could not be standardised.
Words such as decent, safe, effective, integrated, regular, regarded, viable and enough were too vague and open for interpretation. Therefore the intention of ensuring that there was one standard level of service towards learner transport would not be achieved. In the draft policy document more details had been left out compared to the latest document circulated to Members. He was excited about the latest document as it had more details particularly in the chapter about monitoring and evaluation as that was ultimately the safeguard. The Committee was sitting in a dilemma with the document in 3.4.1 that all planning would only be re-assessed in a three year cycle which translated to only three evaluations in ten years. Improvements could only be measured with three sets of data and if the whole thing was going in the wrong direction it could only be realised after ten years. He suggest that the Department re-consider the monitoring and evaluation criteria.
Ms D Magadzi (ANC) said that the Committee believed there was a lot of information in the draft policy document which was going to assist the Department. She had picked up a lot of acronyms in the document which were not included in the appendix of acronyms.
The DDG had indicated that capacity in Municipalities would short circuit as the policy was implemented particularly regarding issues raised in the National Learner Transport Act which were to be receded in the municipalities. She asked if this was in terms of the amendment of the Act and what were the actual issues to be ensured if the policy was elevated to the Department’s ambit for implementation. What would be the issues if implementation was scaled down to municipalities that did not have capacity?
Ms Magadzi said the Department had indicated that the Deputy Minister of the Treasury had raised issues about where the budget for the policy function would reside. This was a critical issue because, as had been indicated, about 90 percent of the policy would be resident in DoT and 10 percent was to do with DBE. The money should be resident in a Department which would ensure that the budget really catered for the scholar transport function. The budget should really follow the functions which were mostly in the DoT. The Department should be clear that scholar transport was a DoT function for instance Public Works was the custodian of the building environment and the infrastructure of government. Therefore the budget for the function should go to DoT even at a provincial level.
Ms Magadzi asked where the bicycles in the Shova Kalula programme were. Did the Department do any monitoring in the programme? Were these not part of the bicycles which were crossing into Zimbabwe? There was a newspaper article in the last week about a suburb which had been invaded and bicycles stolen. The stolen bicycles were taken into Zimbabwe. She asked if Members could do site visits in all schools that had received the bicycles and do monitoring. The Committee would check if the bicycles were still in good condition because currently there was no proper maintenance programme. The idea was very noble but the monitoring aspect was very critical as beneficiaries had to be identified and all related matters.
The Department had talked about issues of topography and it should not derail investment into roads. This was because when looking at the roads in some rural areas of the Eastern Cape, Limpopo or Mpumalanga, one found that the average distance to the nearest school was between 1.2 and 2 kilometres. However, the road networks made the school inaccessible. She cited an example of learners crossing a river using a human chain.
Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) felt that the Department had not taken enough care over the presentation as it still referred to a “draft policy” throughout. He asked how much money was being utilised currently by each individual province where the function was with DBE. If resources were pulled together how much money would the function have bearing in mind that some of the money had already been spent? He assumed the Department would not get a lot of money for the function and some of it would have to be pulled from existing functions already in various departments.
He queried the language in the policy, saying that what the Department was going to be implementing was different to the wording used. Would the Department require additional capacity in terms of implementation or was the current capacity in the Department sufficient? The definition of the relevant stakeholders should be stipulated.
He was concerned that provinces would develop their own plans towards the implementation of the policy. What was meant by this and was the policy itself going to be driven by national policy or the implementation of it was going to be directed by what was going to be developed in the provinces. What was the capacity in provinces to be able to develop such a policy and implement it in terms of the time frame to implement this particular policy? If it was going to be subjected to provinces then there would be uneven implementation. He requested clarity on this and on the paragraph which said provinces must develop provincial learner transport plans and strategies aligned with the National Learner Transport Policy. Was this the activator to implement or it was complimentary to implementation.
Responsibility for the code of conduct and standards was being divided with DBE. Education would develop a code of conduct of learners and DoT would develop the standards. Was the paragraph not going to be a constraint on implementation? The Department had said regulations would not be developed per say but in the policy a lot of issues were raised which might not be addressed by the current legislation. The Department also talked about safety standards and all that went together with learner transport standard. If the standard already existed then the Department would talk in terms of existing standards. If new standards would have to be developed they would require authority either in the form of regulations or amendment of the current legislation. What would the Department be able to do as the package of that would help the Committee to understand whether it would be part of the executive function which would be authorised by regulations?
He suspected the marking of the scholar transport would be dealt with the current arrangement of policy that existed in terms of public transport marking. He asked if there would be different markings and if that was the case then there should be authority for it. Perhaps the DDG would explain on what he meant by saying there would be no need for that authority and if it was covered by existing legislation.
He stressed the need to know what was meant by relevant stakeholders and who the relevant stakeholders were.
The Chairperson said Ms Magadzi had raised an important issue about learners crossing rivers using human chains. Some people might take it lightly but this was very sensitive. The current of the water and depth of the river had serious impact. In some place children had lost lives when a tree carried by the current separated the human chain. He was trying to illustrate that most of the issues should be taken seriously.
He agreed with Mr Ramatlakane about having standards in markings because sometimes politicians would want to take advantage and use party colours to mark the vehicles. This had happened with some trains where political party colours were marked on the trains. He gave an example of the previous government where vehicles were painted yellow and green. A policy should not be without direct corrective measures other people would put their colours and this could be dangerous on a Provincial basis.
He was concerned that there were no strict measures in the issuance of licences to operators. There was an allegation that some operators were issued with licences when they did not have enough vehicles to operate scholar transport. Such operators tended to sub-contract the tender which affected operations of learner transport especially when there were disputes over payments. The person awarded the licence could still be paid even when the sub-contractor was not providing the service. If the Department really wanted to address issues of unsafe vehicles, uncoordinated services, unscrupulous operations, there was a need to tighten how licences to operate were issued.
Shova Kalula had been impractical. Where were the bicycles now?
He asked for clarity on law enforcement in terms of monitoring and evaluation and an independent assessment so that Members could understand better. The use of consultants was discouraged. The Department was an organisation and there was no need to give the work to consultants because government had instructed to stop using or reduce the use of consultants.
He agreed with issues raised by Mr Ramatlakane about taking issues to the municipalities, if implementation was to be effective the DoT should also be involved. There was no guarantee that the policy would be implemented in the way intended by the DoT. The previous government used to have inspectors who were hands-on but this was no longer the case. Issues of ownership as raised by Mr Ramatlakane should also be addressed because a policy could be marvellous on paper but if the Department was not hands-on the policy would not achieve its intended purposes.
During the presentation the Department had talked about LSDs and how they could still be used to transport learners, however from the committee's experience with oversight the fatality rate of accidents involving LSD was higher than accidents involving buses or combis. The policy should specify the types of transport in order to strengthen law enforcement. He gave an example of defiance in the past when the railways was very strict and combis were being impounded, people resolved to buying station wagons and adding extra seats to counter act impounding of combis. That was when the government realised that combis had to be legalised. He was trying to illustrate that people would find ways of transporting more people in a vehicle than capacity would allow. The Department should be specific in what was desired by the policy.
The Chairperson was concerned that the Department had talked about developing and implementing national policy advocacy programmes to raise awareness of the policy. He asked the Department to speed up on this because a cart could not be put in front of the horse, the horse should be in front so that it could pull the cart. The issues of implementation and sustainability were the main concern for Members.
Mr Makonyama responded that the Department had indicated that the policy was with Cabinet two weeks ago. The DoT had the minutes of the Cabinet Committee when it was adopted and approved. Up until yesterday the Department was still waiting for the minutes of the Cabinet to see if the approval had conditions or not. The Department had tried to indicate that if it was to come and present the approved policy, the Department would have the comfort of those minutes and decision. That was why when he summed up he had stressed that the Department would had been comfortable to present to the committee at a later stage. In that regard the Department would had been able to do all the things that it had not been able to do in terms of processes including the advocacy programme, communication and marketing plan of the policy. The Department had to salvage in less than two weeks what it could to be able to present about implementation to the Committee on this day. He apologised for the appearance of draft in the presentation. The Department had focused on the newer slides which were about implementation, it was not a deliberate action nor did it suggest that this was an old presentation.
Initially the policy was a big document containing about 300 pages, with time whilst dealing with details the Department was directed to reduce the details and deal with issues at the framework level. When DBE was brought in, each Department was led by its Minister this was where the policy dwelt deep into detail and was advised against it because once details were listed there was a possibility that others would be left out.
The issue of relevant stakeholders was a repeated term everywhere and in fact the term was other stakeholders and the Department qualified it to those who were relevant. A definition would be added as it was understandable that there should be a definition. Also the other terms which were not normally used would be added with explanations.
Mr Makonyama responded that in terms of scope of applicability the issue being addressed was about a person called a learner. The Department had to use the definition of a learner as defined by SASA. There were indeed situations where High Schools could have been turned into FET colleges, under normal circumstances FETs were categorised as Higher Education centres. They were basically post Matric or post Grade 12 and were not covered by SASA. The concern raised had been heard. He also added that the policy document had not been sent to the Department of Higher Education (DHE). DoT had not been working with DHE as it had been working with DBE. Where there had been rationalisation and schools turned into FETs the Department would consult and come back to the Committee.
Mr Makonyama had tried to explain with pace that tariff determination did not necessarily mean there would be a uniform rate per kilometre across the country. That was not how the system operated as other factors were taken into consideration, particularly fixed and variable costs and maintenance costs. These would not be the same in rural and urban areas. What the Department was developing was a formula that would guide the pricing and costing of a particular road as it was designed.
The Department could account for close to 96 000 bicycles that had been issued since the start of Shova Kalula, including the most recent ones. A service level agreement was entered with provinces because the bicycles were given to provinces and were distributed at the discretion of the provinces. The Department could even provide a list of how the last 3000 bicycles were distributed so that the Committee could go and trace them. Shova Kalula had challenges and the Department acknowledged this. At the inception of the programme there were workshop managers and workshops which have since died down and the programme also died in provinces. The service level agreements had ensured that provinces committed to monitoring the bicycles. One of the challenges was that the bicycles could be given to children who might not necessarily need the bicycle or the bicycle could be taken over by adults who would be using them instead of the learner. There was a need for some serious reviewing of the challenges to determine a way forward. One of the options considered was to deal with bicycles in the same manner that books were dealt with where the books still belonged to the school and students would return them at the end of a school term. There was a need to identify what would become the conditions for not returning the bicycle since with books results were withheld. He was not sure if results could be held back if the bicycle was not returned. Therefore there was a need to study models that could assist in this.
In regards to LDVs, it was this really spoke to the types of vehicles. Fortunately, the policy was formulated and would operate in a system where there was legislation in the types, sizes and quality of vehicles. There was also a little bit of legislation in the form of services. When speaking about adapted LDVs it was not a definition that was or would be in the policy. It was a definition that was in the National Road Traffic Act which talked about conveyance of people in adapted light delivery vehicles. It also talked to the safety issues that needed to be addressed. These were not necessarily issues that were thought of by the Department and dealt with. The policy could talk about safe and secure vehicles and this was also stipulated in section 41 of the Rationalisation of Public Transport Services of the NRTA.
The Section stipulated that where an individual was awarded a contract to provide public transport services there was a need to automatically provide the individual with an operating licence. This was different from the statement that was made in that the Department did not expect anybody to go and purchase buses and minibuses and wait for a government tender. That would never happen. Individuals could not invest on the basis that they would go and tender. Interested operators needed to provide a guarantee that they had capacity to get vehicles or obtain financing for vehicles. There was also a need to show that the operator would be able to provide the services. This was what differentiated a public transport service contract as it was not possible to invest before being awarded the contract. Once awarded the contract the operator was given time for acquisition. It was not possible to tender with a permit or operator licence. An operator might possess these but they would not be used in the tender process as it would give the operator an unfair advantage over others without the licence or permit but would want to provide the service. This was the standard for public transport contracts.
Mr Makonyama said the wording of the policy was deliberate and indicated where the Department was able to operationalise a particular vision or intention. If guidelines were gazetted, they would remain guidelines but if words like “shall” were used then minimum requirements were issued and if these were gazetted they became captive. Section 11 on the regulations by the Minister of Transport in terms of the NRTA, it was very clear that the Minister of Transport could issue any regulation in relation to matters of the National Learner Transport Act.
As indicated earlier on if the provisions were not that clear, then there was an opportunity to use this amendment to make them very clear in terms of the issuance of regulations. It had been indicated that a new legislation on learner transport might not be necessary. At some point during the process of policy formulation the Department had thought a policy might not be necessary and only issue regulations in terms of the NRTA. There were some areas which were not covered by the regulations particularly applicability and qualifying criteria and so on were not in the NRTA.
Mr Makonyama responded that to a certain extent there were things that would be done by DoT nationally. These were just guidelines, minimum requirements, norms and standards, standardised codes of conduct which could be done internally as there was capacity within the Department to do that. Unfortunately the bulk of the implementation and operational matters would happen at the level of the contracting authorities which was not DoT. The Department did not issue and would not issue contracts but formulate policy in this regard. He agreed there was a need to be clear when issuing guidelines and operational matters. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) had to be very clear especially for provinces. Capacity at the provincial level had not been fully addressed nor was capacity addressed at the Municipality level since municipalities did not provide scholar transport. Even where legislation stipulates municipalities were contracting authorities, none of them had been assigned the function as it had to be formally assigned.
Categories of vehicles had been talked about and the policy could not develop new categories as the policy was cross referred to the NRTA. The NLTA talked a lot about minibus taxi services and these vehicles were regulated by another Act which the policy cross referred to.
Acronyms that were not in the Acronyms list would be looked into.
The Turn Around Strategy was holistic and learner transport would be a part of that. It had already been indicated that part of the work that had been done in the NLTA had taken cue from the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). About 18 million learners travel through public transport on a daily basis. For the Committee's comfort the Department would also indulge into the earlier versions of the policy so that the Department could determine which parts had been eliminated.
About 80 percent of the policy implementation was at the hands of the contract management level. That was why issues that came up were always matters of contract. The policy was delayed because the Department could not agree with the DBE on a number of issues, one of which was the allocation of the function of learner transport. A legal opinion was obtained and it indicated that the Department could develop a policy which would apply to any entity that wished to implement that particular function. That was why the Department was talking about implementing authorities or implementing departments. Furthermore, the Department was advised that if it was insisted that the function should go and this was stated in a policy, the whole policy would be unconstitutional. Cabinet had also asked for an explanation as to why this was the case.
The trend was very clear, where the function was performed in education and now it was provinces performing the function. The Department believed that there were other avenues which could and should be used to ensure that migration was accelerated as this could not have been put in the policy. This was a point that took a whole year to be dealt with and everybody was hiding behind Section 132 of the Constitution on the functions and responsibility of Premiers.
The budget allocation in the DBE had at some point been provided by National Treasury. The information was not available off hand but would be provided to the Committee as soon as the 2014/2015 financial year was updated.
The principle of “money follows function” had applied and most of the money had been transferred to DoT. However, as the function was transferred to DoT the service suddenly became no longer affordable. The Department was also interested to find out what was happening as it also thought DBE did not release all the money. DBE had a budget of R 300 million. Now that the function was with DoT carpet to carpet services were issued, and the budget was R 800 million and education would have allocated R 100 million only to cover a small portion of the services. These were the challenges concerning funds and that was why DoT was saying if the function was in the Department then clarity on the transferring Department would become much clearer. The money could be channelled through a conditional grant and be ring-fenced. It could not be used at the discretion of a province.
Designs were expensive as they were detailed. Any contract to the operator would need to contain elements of insurance cover like any other public transport operator. Key to learner transport in the NLTA would be the contracting authority to be with provinces and this had not yet been elevated to the national level. For now the contracting authority was with municipalities and where municipalities agreed, provinces could take the function forward. The Department was rectifying the situation where an assumption was made that municipalities would have the capacity and was provided in the amendments.
Mr Makonyama said DoT had partnered with DBE in the development of the policy but was not necessarily shadowing the policy. The national Department of Transport was the custodian of the policy and it applied to any authority that implemented scholar transport. Where provision in the policy required minimum requirements they “became teeth” once gazetted as they then became regulations.
The Department would look at the paragraph raised by Mr Ramatlakane and ensure it was much clearer. In the Department's attempt to summarise, the message was lost a bit and this would be rectified as long as it did not significantly change what Cabinet had approved. It would be amplified and clarified.
The Chairperson said the issue of learner transport had been followed for some time since 2003. The issue of DoT taking on some of the responsibilities had always been emphasised. He was not opening any engagement but as Mr Ramatlakane was indicating and sensitising the Department about some of the issues concerning Treasury and the budget, what the Committee was asking from the Department was very clear.
Update on Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project E-Toll New Dispensation
Mr Rikhotso presented to the Committee the New Dispensation on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), in particular the E-Tolling project. About three weeks previously the Deputy President together with the Ministers of Transport and Finance and the Premier of Gauteng had announced the dispensation to the E-tolling project in Gauteng.
The presentation would cover the key highlights of that particular dispensation. The Provincial government of Gauteng initiated a process of assessing the socio-economic impact of the e-tolling project on the residents of Gauteng. The report by the advisory panel appointed by the Premier came up with a set of recommendations. Chief amongst the recommendations was that the user-pay principle should remain and that the e-tolling project should remain in place. However there were a number of recommended changes to the scope of the project. The principles agreed to include new payment options which would safeguard the integrity of the fiscus and, in particular, The South African National Roads Agency Limited’s (SANRAL’s) ability to continue raising funds and meet its obligations and expectations of the people of South Africa. Equity considerations remained critical to protect the poor and the lower-middle class. Lastly, decongestion in the Gauteng freeway network and encouraging people to use public transport remained the principal objective of GFIP.
The New Dispensation consisted of seven recommendations: registration, tariffs, reduced monthly caps, infrequent user regime, limit of travel cost, discount in particular to outstanding debt and compliance. It was a new tariff structure which featured a number of changes and reduced payable e-toll fees. It was an equitable system where the user benefited and paid. It was a simplified model as the many tariffs from the previous system had been reduced to a standardised rate of 30c per kilometre for light motor vehicles.
The GFIP was a system that retained all benefits including multiple lanes, alternate routes, lessened congestion, improved safety, freeway lighting, cameras to monitor incidents and improved responsiveness and stimulated economic growth and development. It was an affordable system with a reduced monthly maximum cap for all users where infrequent users with less than 30 gantry passes per year did not have to pay anything. These were people who visited Gauteng Province from time to time.
The system was not an amnesty for unpaid e-toll bills nor was it a system that did away with e-tolls as was known. It was not a system where those that did not use the roads had to pay. It was not a complicated model that would make things more difficult for users. It was not a system that restricted benefits to only those who paid. Again it was not a system that burdened the poor and lastly it was not a system where a visit or two to Gauteng using the network required the user to pay.
The recommendation on registration spoke to two types of possible methods of registering. The first one was direct registration where users could go to SANRAL outlets or any of the partners that SANRAL had in the form of retail outlets such as Shoprite, Spar or PicknPay. Other platform where members of the public could register such as the South African Post Office were being explored. This would assist SANRAL in ensuring that accurate information of users was captured leading, to correct billing.
Indirect registration would speak to the general registration of motor vehicles to the national database known as National Traffic Information System (NaTIS). This would also enable Members of the public to use some of the outlets available within the transport services to pay for outstanding toll fees. This could be done either when renewing licences at licensing offices. As indicated the Department was exploring a relationship with the Post Office given its wide reach in particular to areas where people might not have access to electronic communication. The Post Office could be used to access some of the information.
The toll tariffs formed a big part of the deal itself. The Deputy President, together with the Ministers and the Premier, announced that all users would now only be liable to pay the e-tag tariff for the different vehicle classes. The previous standard tariff and alternate tariff would fall away. In other words previously if a user was not in possession of an e-tag the user was expected to pay almost double the tariff. This had now fallen away and it was now possible for all users to pay the same standard tariff regardless of whether in possession of a tag or not.
The different revised tariffs for the different classes of vehicles were indicated. Class A1 which was motorcycles would pay 18c per kilometre. Class A2 was for light vehicles, which was used by most people and constituted the majority of vehicles on the roads, would be 30c per kilometre. Class B, which was medium heavy vehicles, would pay 75c per kilometre. Class C was for large heavy vehicles and would be required to pay R1.50 per kilometre.
The reduced cap for motorcycles was R125 from R250 which was a 50 percent reduction. The same applied to the other vehicle classes, normal vehicles which were the private cars used on a daily basis had the tariff reduced to R225 from R450. This meant that regardless of how much you drive or if a user eventually accumulated R5000 worth of toll fees in any given month a user would not be expected to pay more than R225 which was the cap itself. The aim was not to punish but to ensure that there was a sustainable revenue stream which would assist the government in repaying the debt going forward. He emphasised that this was not a punishment but a way of ensuring that the user pay principle was used efficiently to address the need that it sought to address.
One of the objections that was raised in the past was the perceived punishment of people who would visit Gauteng Province once in a while. The complaint was also about people who resided within the Province but did not travel on the tolled road network, for instance people who stayed far from the tolled road network. Out of at least 534 kilometres of Gauteng highways only 201 kilometres were subjected to e-tolling. In terms of the surveys that had been conducted only eight percent of the Gauteng vehicle population frequently utilised GFIP. Therefore, to say that each and every person who passed through once in a while would be subjected to a toll fee was seen as unfair by members of the public. The new dispensation said if a user did not exceed a number of 30 gantry passes in any given year the user was not liable to pay for the gantry. If a user exceeded this then he or she would be liable to pay for all the 30 gantry passes. This was good for those who visited the province once in a while for either economic or social visits but also residents of the province who were not frequent users of the tolled road network.
All users who did not pay the toll within the required period of 30 days after the date of the toll invoice would be obliged to pay a higher tariff which was almost double the reduced tariff. In other words if a user did not meet his or her obligations within the stated 30 days period which was the standard practice with the debt legislation in South Africa, the user would be liable to a double tariff. Different classes had different caps for defaulters.
The Department believed that discount on the outstanding debt was yet another victory for the users of the tolled road network. As of 3 December those with outstanding toll fees would enjoy a 60 percent discount. In other words, if a user owed R1000, the user would be expected to settle R400 only. This was a major relief which would basically further assist hard pressed consumers and users who might find it difficult to meet the obligation. A six month window period would be allowed for settling all outstanding debts within the 60 percent discount regime.
Any process should have a compliance mechanism which ensured participation. Ordinarily the process would rely on the spirit of voluntarism to take effect. However, with anything that had to do with contributing a particular amount of money towards a particular service, people were usually reluctant to do that. The new dispensation stipulated that those who defaulted on payment after several reminders would not be issued with vehicle licences. The same regime applied to traffic infringements. Currently a user with outstanding traffic fines was not able to renew driver's licence or vehicle licence until all traffic infringements had been settled.
The Department was simultaneously working on the integration of Provincial Traffic Information Systems to ensure that they were directly linked to the NATIS system. This would enable the Department to deal with dodgers who might wish to migrate from one province to the next. For example such users would not be able to register their vehicle in a new province because of outstanding toll fees.
The integration of the system would enable the Department to pick up defaulters either through a vehicle registration licence or a person's ID number. This would assist in ensuring that the mechanism was used to enforce compliance. This was a move away from criminalisation of non-payment of toll fees. Previously the Department was going to go the way of the Criminal Procedures Act but this was going to be an administrative burden on the criminal justice system itself. Also it was not the government's intention to criminalise its citizens. However, with any legislation or Act there was a need for compliance mechanism.
With all the concessions that had given back to this agreement there were a number of compromises that had been made. The compromise bore a cost consequence, a shortfall had been identified which would have to be addressed through a hybrid model. The Provincial government of Gauteng and the national government would have to come together to raise the funding that was required to fund a short fall on an annual basis. In addition to what would be received from the user the Department believed the system would become a success.
With all the changes several adjustments had to be made to the system in terms of implementation. Currently the Department was finalising negotiations and discussions with the operator to see how best the system could accommodate the new changes that were contained in the new dispensation. This would speak to adjusting the system to accommodate the new toll tariff regime and the discounts. The Department was also working internally to finalise the various government gazettes that were required to effect some of the changes including regulations that the Minister would need to publish and approve regarding withholding of licence discs as an enforcement mechanism. It was believed that within a space of one month to eighteen months a full package of the concessions made towards the new dispensation should be fully implemented.
Implementation would be in phases and some phases were more urgent than others which spoke to sustainability of the system. The Department was confident that with all the work that the Department had started doing since the announcement three weeks ago, changes implemented should be seen within a period of three months. The Department did not want to cut corners and therefore run the risk of comebacks at a later stage. Everything would be done within the spirit of the law and ensure that Members of the public were taken on board as the new changes were introduced.
As promised by the Deputy President, periodic announcements would be made as and when the various aspects of the legislation were concluded or adjustments to the current system that needed to be done were done. Mr Selepe added that the total concessions that were made as explained by Mr Rikhotso resulted in a shortfall. The shortfall was about R390 million per annum. It was the shortfall that in terms of the parties to the agreement would be borne by National Treasury and Gauteng Provincial government.
Mr Ramatlakane said the presentation was straight to the point. He said it was a good plan and the most important part was an indication of the implementation in terms of what would be unfolding going forward. The Committee was delighted to get such a presentation and at least an update. However, the most important part going forward was the need for the Department to communicate a positive message. If a positive message was not communicated other people would communicate a negative message. What was needed at the moment was for people to hear more and more of the positive message that reflected this kind of concession including the cabinet. That alone was an important achievement for people using the tolled road networks. This would go a long way in unfolding and bringing others on board.
It was positive that Treasury would be meeting the shortfall. Car ownership increased every year so it would mitigate those kinds of shortfalls moving forward.
Ms Xego-Sovita sought clarity on the six month window period, when did it start and when did it finish?
The Chairperson said acronyms were important when making a presentation as the Committee was the one which was supposed to come and protect the Department. In the sense that Members were the ones who had to explain to constituents as such, Members should be empowered in order to protect the Department.
How would the Department deal with cloning, false number plate and jammers? What criteria was used to determine categories for e-tolls as the burden was worse for trucks that were from outside Gauteng and might have had already paid hefty toll fees along the way. For example the 17 percent discount in outstanding toll fees was not that significant as compared to the 50 percent discount for the other categories.
There was a tendency for community members of to protest and block freeways. This was recently done in Durban where taxi operators were protesting about tickets issued out to taxis which were really not road worthy. How was the Department going to raise awareness about compliance? He was aware that some politicians would take chances to use people's ignorance to defy the Department and how was the Department going to deal with that?
Mr Selepe responded that the Department was aware of the problem of cloning and the contamination of the NATIS system. Hence from October 2015 it would be a legal requirement for motorists to come in person and submit their addresses so that their whereabouts would be known to the Department. This was one way of cleaning the NATIS system. Secondly, the Department was looking at looking at security measures to the base document used to register or renew vehicle registration. At the moment there was no security measure on the document and it could be reproduced and therefore was easier to clone.
Mr Rikhotso responded that the outstanding toll fees discount window period as indicated would be for six months. In terms of implementation the Department had given itself anything between three to four months but it could be earlier. When he spoke to SANRAL earlier that morning it was indicated that a meeting had been held with the operator. The system would have to be adjusted as soon as the Department was ready. The Department had received similar queries from affected users, who were being advised to hold on to the payments. There were those who had come forward and wanted to settle in order to take advantage of the 60 percent discount. As promised by the Deputy President each and every milestone achieved in the new dispensation needed clear communication. Even if it meant the Department convening a press conference then that would be done or use any other available form of communication to ensure information reached members of the public. As soon as the system was ready the Department would be able to make that announcement.
Mr Selepe added that he had a discussion with the SANRAL CEO and also asked about the same issue. One of the issues that SANRAL was considering was to take the debt out of the system and mange it separately. The system was configured in such a way that it would not be easy to manage the debt. If SANRAL agreed with the contractor to take the debt out of the system and manage it separately then it could happen even quicker. The Department had also raised the issue that it should not be in a situation where people who were coming forward to pay were turned away.
Mr Rikhotso responded that in addition to what the DG had said about cloning, one of the best features of the e-tolling system was the information management system. The system almost gave real time outcomes of what was happening on the tolled road network in question. The incident management service enabled the Department to deploy assistance when there were breakdowns along the highway to avoid secondary crashes. This also helped in picking up cloned vehicles. If one was to visit the operation centres in SANRAL one would notice that the three Metros Traffic Services were represented. There were huge screens available which showed each and every element mounted with a camera along the 210 kilometres. Therefore if there was traffic infringed related incident the Department was able to mobilise support which helped to intercept violations related to cloning within a short space of time. The Department was quite hopeful that it would be able to pick up more of these cloning incidents utilising that particular technology.
The issue of awareness was in line with the comments which Mr Ramatlakane made and they were welcomed with the greatest appreciation. It had been very difficult to communicate a positive message in an environment that was clattered by negativity.
The Department believed that as the Deputy President said there was an opportunity to start afresh. It was believed that the new dispensation would be embraced by all as a positive outcome which sought to ensure that members of the public were given an opportunity to contribute towards nation building.
In terms of variation in the toll tariffs for Class C, it was a technical question and he had mobilised support in that regard. The response was that the reduction of the initial R3500 to R2900 was done purely from a need to compliment and support the freight business sector itself. The contributions that the sector made in society, their operations and all the contributions towards the economy were understood. The Department wanted to bring relief to the sector as well, as they went on about their business and the reduction was done in the spirit of good governance going forward.
Briefing by DoT on International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch Keeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel, (STCW-F) 1995
Mr Mthunzi Madiya, Acting Chief Director, DoT, briefed the Committee on the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch Keeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCWF), 1995. The Department requested the Committee to approve the accession of the STCWF Convention.
More than 24 000 fishermen were lost world-wide during fishing operations. The United Nations specialised agency referred to as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) realised the need for a response to the safety crisis in the fishing industry and had a number of instruments addressing these matters. Consequently, in 1995 the IMO adopted STCWF. The Department was party to STCW which excluded the fishing operation. Now the Department wished to be party to the STCWF Convention which entered into force in September 2012.
The purpose of this was to address training and certification standards for skippers and watch keepers on fishing vessels which were more than 24 metres long. The STCWF would contribute to the reduction of casualties, and would go a long way to improve the poor safety record of the global fishing industry. South Africa wanted to become a party to the Convention.
Mr Ramatlakane moved for adoption by the Committee.
Mr Mlaudzi seconded the proposal.
The report was accepted by the Committee. The meeting was adjourned.
- Department of Transport presentation
- New Dispensation for E-Tolls
- Gauteng Province Unpacking New Dispensation for e-tolls Questions & Answers booklet
- National Treasury Gauteng Freeway Improvement ProjectE-toll New Dispensation
- Draft National Learner Transport Policy Presentation
- National Learner Transport Policy
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