Military Veterans subsidised transport: Status, progress and challenges: Department of Transport briefings

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Defence and Military Veterans

30 November 2016
Chairperson: Mr M Motimele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Transport (DoT) attended the meeting to brief the Committee on the progress of a system of subsidies for military veterans. Prior to the briefing, Members had questioned the Department whether other entities such as Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), South African Airways, Transnet and SA National Roads Agency Limited were present. The DoT indicated that PRASA was engaged in another meeting with Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the other entities either did not fall under the Department or did not have anything to do with subsidies to veterans. Members noted that this was a follow-up meeting to one with the Department of Military Veterans where it had expressed its concerns about lack of movement on subsidies, and the agencies were expected to be in attendance. The Department indicated that it knew nothing about the previous meeting and was asked to brief the Committee on the progress of an intended Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Military Veterans (DMV). The DoT was still developing a subsidy policy to look at equitable distribution of subsidy amongst all beneficiaries as well as individual targeting. The timeline was set out: a final MoU had been sent to the DoT on 15 October 2015, with a meeting to be arranged for the MoU to be signed, which did not happen and due to personnel changes the DoT was informed in March 2016 that the matter would now be handled by someone else at the DMV. The policy was still being developed therefore and further consultations were needed. The DMV indicated, during the discussion, that it had retrieved the MoU, sent it through to its legal division and was hoping now to work on service level agreements.

Members were disappointed in this response, pointing out that there had been no significant movement, with one Member describing this as showing disrespect to the Committee and Parliament. It was suggested that the minutes of the previous meeting must be consulted and relevant extracts sent through to the DoT, to show where things might have gone wrong and what needed still to be done, with a new dashboard being created. Members wanted to know what actually happened at the meeting in July 2015 when all players were present, and asked if there had been breakdown in communication. Members said that progress on this should be captured in the quarterly reports of both entities. It was noted that there were still problems with getting funding for scholar transport as well, and the Committee was particularly upset that 50% of the DoT's budget was underspent in the previous year and this was money that could have usefully gone to military veterans subsidies. They made the point that the subsidy policy had to be tested and costed, and wanted to see timeframes and milestones set.  Members asked if it was possible to consider subsidising a transport company in order to deliver a service, rather than using existing metro systems. Members agreed that more definitive questions and points would be sent through to the DoT before the closure for recess.

Members adopted minutes of meeting on 2, 8 and 23 November 2016. They also discussed the Committee programme and the Study Tour for next year, on which there was as yet no final approval.

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson asked who had arrived at this meeting to brief the Committee.

Ms Lusanda Madikizela, Acting Deputy Director-General: Public Transport, firstly tendered an apology from the Acting Director-General (ADG) who had to attend a meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA). Therefore PRASA was also unable to attend. Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) was also not present. ACSA was an agency responsible for the provision of infrastructure like airports for the country, so it did not offer any public transport services, but someone was present from the Department of Transport Aviation Division who would speak to the part that air transport played. South African Airways (SAA) was not an entity falling under the Department of Transport (DoT or the Department). Transnet similarly fell under the Department of Public Enterprises. South African National Roads Agency Ltd (SANRAL) was not involved in subsidies for military veterans and the presentation by the Department would cover the areas that SANRAL was responsible for.

Mr D Gamede (ANC) said that this was a follow-up meeting and the agencies were expected to be here, as it was not only an issue about transport but also what various agencies were supposed to do for military veterans.

Department of Transport on its Transport Subsidy for Military Veterans

Ms Madikizela noted the comment of Mr Gamede but said that the Department was not aware of a previous meeting. The Department had come prepared to cover the topics that were included in the invitation, and was unable to provide any status update from the previous meeting. She thought that some of the matters discussed might have been something that was not necessary related to public transport services. She highlighted the role of ACSA and said that it did not provide any public transport but was responsible for infrastructure only.

She noted that the Department had been specifically asked to provide an update on the status, progress and challenges it encountered in providing subsidised transport to military veterans. It had been reported that the Department was developing a subsidy policy for public transport that would, amongst other matters, look at the equitable distribution of subsidy amongst all beneficiaries, as well as individual targeting.

She highlighted the following developments:

- On October 15 2015 a final Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as vetted by the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) was received by the Department of Transport (DOT)
- The DMV agreed to convene a meeting for the signing of the MOU by two Directors General but this had not materialised

- On 17 March 2016 the Department received correspondence from the DMV that due to personnel changes in their Department a new person was now assigned to this process and would contact the DOT.

She then described the way forward.
- The process of developing the Subsidy Policy was still underway
- The DoT made a commitment to consult the DMV as the process unfolded, so that the latter could make inputs and proposals
- The proposed Pilot Programme in Durban was still a viable alternative, and should be pursued as a first step towards subsidisation of public transport services for military veterans
- If necessary the DMV could be assisted to contact individual bus operators to discuss and pilot this proposal. (See attached document for further details).


The Chairperson said that he had expected to hear about an agreement on free transport for military veterans, but now there was still talk of policies and negotiations between the DMV and the Department of Transport; and there was also talk of a proposed pilot project. He was not sure how to move from here.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) said that he was still waiting for more news on an actual policy, as he had only heard of a model of the policy that was going to be formulated. It was clear, from this presentation, that the first work had only been done in 2015, and it seemed that only in March 2016 had matters progressed any further. He commented that it was very frustrating when projects were more than two years in the discussion stages. He suggested that greater efforts were needed. There were sectors that did not feature at all, and this was of more concern. The Committee actually wanted to hear how far each department had come and what they were going to do.

Mr S Esau (DA) asked how the last engagement in July, when all different role players had been present, had gone. He asked if this had been arranged via the Department of Transport or if there were individual conversations with all the different entities. If only the DoT was with the Committee today, then he thought this might signify that there was a break in communication. He also asked if there had been apologies from the other entities that were supposed to be here today?

Mr Esau wanted to know what was done with regard to communication. He asked if there was any progress report on matters taking place more than a year ago. He felt that progress should also be captured in the quarterly reports that were received. This Committee had had a special meeting, and there were reports that had to be tendered to the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) and that had to be incorporated into the quarterly reports. There was therefore a duty on both the Department of Transport and the Department of Military Veterans to keep the Committee up to date. It was totally unacceptable that, more than a year on, the Committee discovered that the MoU had been shelved, not completed, and the Service Level Agreement (SLA) still had to follow. The Department of Transport was also responsible for scholar transport, and it was noted that signed agreements remained unfunded and children in this country still suffered. The Department’s budget was underspent by 50% last year, and he pointed out that with this money left over, there should have been plenty to pilot the granting of benefits to military veterans, including transport as a key benefit. The fact that this was not done was unacceptable and had to be dealt with. He asked if the Committee could have sight of the final MoU and asked it it was actually concluded in October 2015. If the subsidy policy was an exceptional case then it had to be tested and costed. The other issue on which he wanted more clarity was how much would it take for a subsidised transport company  to deliver a bus service. The major metros had their own rapid bus transport bus systems, but these belonged to the metros, not private companies. He said there should be definite time frames and milestones.

Mr B Bongo (ANC) agreed with his colleagues. He expressed his feeling that the Committee and Parliament were not being taken seriously, and the Rule Book should be consulted to see how to deal appropriately with departments that were not taking committees and Parliament seriously.  There was good engagement in the meeting that was held, and perhaps it would be necessary to have regard to the minutes of that meeting and then draw up a dashboard based on what was agreed to in that meeting. He would not want to put too much blame on the DMV as they had shown progress, with their leadership issues were being addressed. The minutes of the previous meeting were required, as this presentation did not mention anything that was discussed in that meeting. Military veterans were not being taken seriously. He suggested that this matter also had to be reported to the Speaker.

Mr Gamede said that he was deeply disappointed, yet happy that it was proven that certain departments were not taking the issues of military veterans seriously. In the previous meeting  it was recognised that it was the Department of Transport whose services were most vital to military veterans. He suggested that, even if it took place during the recess, a meeting must be called to discuss these very serious issues. He supported the proposal to call an urgent meeting with the Department, as they needed to be put on the spot.

The Chairperson agreed that the minutes of that meeting should be consulted to see what the resolutions were, then this should be drawn up in a form to send through to the Department of Transport, before closure of Parliament.

Mr Esau asked if the DMV could make an input on this issue. He pointed out that there had been a MoU, but a breakdown in communications for more than a year. The Committee needed an update on the MoU and whether it was tabled with the DMV for consideration. There would have been things happening between the Directors General.

The Chairperson asked if Mr Esau wanted to hear the side of the DMV again, as it had indicated in the last meeting what challenges there had been with the DoT; this would only be needed, he thought, if there was new information to report.

Mr Max Ozinsky, Acting Director-General, Department of Military Veterans, said that since the last discussion, and in preparation for this meeting, he had been trying to follow up on these issues. The MoU in question had been retrieved and sent to the DMV’s legal department for certification. He was then hoping to meet with the DoT to sign off on it. The MoU was a bit broader than the issue of subsidies, as it also dealt with job creation opportunities for military veterans and business opportunities for military veterans in the various agencies of the Department of Transport. Once the MoU was agreed upon, he agreed that SLAs would have to be developed which dealt with each of the areas and each of their entities. An instruction had been given that the SLAs had to be prepared concurrently with the finalisation of the MOU.

The Chairperson said he hoped that this matter would be completed before closure of this year and that military veterans would be able to travel around with subsidies over the festive season.

Mr Esau asked if the DoT should be asked as a lead department in transport to assist or whether the DMV should be asked to directly correspond or communicate directly with the metros that ran their own rapid transport systems. He also suggested it should communicate with the national body of the taxi association, as taxi services could be engaged on some routes because their rates were generally cheaper than the buses. It was necessary to look at  extending and expanding the scope of transport. The DMV should also be asked if correspondence could be set up with ACSA and SAA.

Mr Skosana said that he felt the Chairperson had come up with a very clear proposal on the dashboard issue and resolution would accommodate the inputs made by other Members.

Adoption of minutes

The minutes of 2 November 2016; 9 November 2016 and 23 November 2016 were adopted without amendments.

Draft Programme: Discussion

The Chairperson said that there was an invitation for the Committee to the launch at the Castle of Good Hope. Members were welcome to attend if possible.

There was an invitation from the Minister to participate in oversight visits on10 and 12 December 2016.

Mr Esau said that the invitation had gone out to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, and he wondered if it was not possible for a smaller group to go with the Minister and then report back.

The Chairperson said that this would be expedited.

He drew attention to the programme for the next term.

Mr S Marais (DA) confirmed that Members had received it and asked if approval had been granted by Parliament for the Study Tour, and if it was still planned that Members visit both Algeria and Cuba.

The Chairperson said that the programme had not been approved as yet.

Mr Marais noted that an oversight visit was planned for 15 March, to military hospitals, and asked if Ysterplaat and Langebaan could also be visited.

The Chairperson noted this suggestion.

Mr Esau drew attention to a good report drawn by the Committee Researcher and Content Advisor, and said it would be useful if a dashboard could be created for each military base, so that the Committee could decide which needed a visit more than others.

The Chairperson said that he had authorised two trips to military bases, that just had to be consolidated, and these would be included in the programme.

Mr Esau noted that Vietnam had been identified as a possible alternative, and he recommended that if this could be incorporated in the visit to Algeria and Cuba, with the Committee splitting to cover the work and costs, it might be useful. He suggested that the Chairperson speak to Mr Frolick, House Chairperson.

The Chairperson confirmed that he had already done so.

The meeting was adjourned.

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