After presenting the Department of Transport 2015/16 Annual Report, some of the issues that were raised by the Committee included the filling of vacant positions and the tendency of departments to hide behind budget constraints when it comes to filling vacant positions. The Committee was not pleased with the Department’s financial report which was characterised by under or over spending and yet no reasons were given for these uneven expenditures. DoT reported that they have both an Acting CFO and Acting CEO. The Committee said it was problematic not to have a CFO and a Director General as this exposes a department to fraud especially given that there is a problem of irregular expenditure within the department.
Irregular expenditure was the result of the litigation around eNATIS from previous years but there was no irregular expenditure in 2015/16.
The report indicated that an executive manager had resigned and there are several other investigations that are being conducted. DoT was asked to provide the nature of the disciplinary investigations and what the actual number of investigations being conducted are because the term “several investigations” is too vague. There needed to be a detailed explanation in the presentation about such cases. There should be a details on the nature of the cases, the number of cases received and a detail of how the cases have been resolved. The DoT team was also given a task to provide the exact number of vacant positions that are being funded in writing and also provide a strategy as to how they intend to fill the positions. The Department was then given seven days to provide the Select Committee with responses on the issues raised in writing form.
Members' questions included why DOT had only an Acting CEO and Acting CFO; the delay in removing the derailed Afro 400 train near Kimberley; the Kuruman sinkhole; learner transport; the lack of detail about suspensions and disciplinary cases
Mr W Faber (DA) expressed his dissatisfaction with committee members lack of attendance at the first Select Committee meeting of the year and said that it shows ill-discipline. He asked the Chairperson to look into the apologies given by absent members and look at the reasons members could not attend.
Ms M Dikgale (ANC) mentioned that some members are busy with their exams and are focused on taking care of their future.
It was noted that the Minister sprained her leg last week and was unable to attend the meeting.
Department of Transport on its 2015/16 Annual Report
The Acting Director General for DoT, Mr Mathabatha Mokoena, presented the Department’s Annual Report presentation for which he was allocated 40 minutes. He said the Department had 50 targets in its annual performance plan and managed to achieve 45 of them. The department has seven programmes and it provided a report on each programme which included:
Programme 1: Administration
• 53 interns were appointed and placed with effect from April 2016 translating in 7.6% of staff establishment.
• Health and wellness campaigns conducted; 256 electronic news updated and circulated; DoT language Policy reviewed; Engagement with Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) conducted on the DoT Corporate Identity manual; 98% of Presidential Hotline cases resolved as at the end of Q4.
• International Relations Strategy approved
• Departmental Intranet site finalised and rolled out
• Implementation of action plans to address audit findings monitored on a quarterly basis; and action plans for strategic risks monitored on a quarterly basis.
• Only 63 vacant posts (against a targeted 115) were filled during the period under review. The underperformance was due to the budget cut on compensation of employees and a moratorium placed by National Treasury on the filling of vacant posts. The DoT will continue to engage Treasury to ensure that a solution is reached to enable the Department to fill critical vacant positions. The Administration programme under spent R1.34 million after funds were shifted across programmes to cover expenditure on transport provided for state funerals. An amount of R1.3 million was under spent on the Road Accident Benefit scheme, which was requested as a rollover.
Programme 2: Integrated Transport Planning
• Drafts of the frameworks for infrastructure Funding and Transport Funding were completed and submitted for approval as targeted.
• The Road Freight Strategy was also completed and submitted for approval
• The Single Transport Economic Regulator (STER) Bill was submitted to Cabinet and consultations on subsidiary regulations conducted with the Ports Regulator
• The draft of the Green Transport strategy has been successfully developed as targeted.
• NATMAP 2050 was not resubmitted to Cabinet due to non-conclusion of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee (PICC) consultation process. Consultations with the PICC secretariat have commenced and the NATMAP will be prioritised at the next PICC Management Committee (MANCO) engagement.
• The development of the Harrismith Hub Framework was not completed. Option Analysis and value Assessment reports were completed in collaboration with the Free State department of Roads, police and transport. These reports will be tabled as the basis of the overarching Harrismith Hub Framework. The Integrated Transport Planning programme spent its budget for the year and there were no material variances in expenditure.
Programme3: Rail Transport
• The draft White Paper on National Rail Transport Policy has been finalised.
• Guidelines for submissions of rail economic regulatory information were completed and approved during the period under review.
• The draft National Railway Safety Strategy has been completed and consultations on the draft strategy conducted with Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) during the period under review.
• Rail Transport programme under spent on a number of projects: White Paper on Rail Transport, Establishment of a Rail Economic Regulator, National Rail Safety Amendment Bill, National Rail Safety Strategy, Branchline Strategy Review and Moloto Development Corridor.
Programme 4: Road Transport
• The draft Green Paper on the Roads Policy has been completed and submission to Cabinet has been approved.
• All approved Provincial Road Maintenance Grant (PRMG) projects have been monitored in line with the budget. An Annual Monitoring Report has also been completed and submitted for quality assurance.
• The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment Bill was submitted and approved by Cabinet. The Bill will be submitted to Parliament in the new financial year.
• Road transport over spent on the Electronic National Traffic Information System (eNATIS) by R121.4 million; over spent on operational expenditure mainly due to traveling; and over spent on the S’Hamba Sonke project. Funds were shifted across programmes to cover the over expenditure. After funds were shifted, the programme under spent by R275 691 000 which was withheld from the Provincial Road Maintenance Grant for Kwa Zulu Natal, and was requested as a rollover.
Programme 5: Civil Aviation
• The National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) and the National Airports Development Plan (NADP) have been completed and submission to Cabinet has been approved.
• A draft Civil Aviation Amendment Bill was completed during quarter 4 and submitted for quality assurance.
• A monitoring report on the upgrade of Mthatha Airport was completed and recommendations on the transfer of the asset to the Eastern Cape Provincial Government duly approved.
• Civil Aviation under spent on a number of projects and over spent on operational expenditure mainly due to traveling. The project “Watchkeeping Services” under spent by R7.8 million and R4.1 million was paid for the management of the Mthatha Airport project, which was covered by under expenditure on other projects.
Programme 6: Maritime Transport
• Drafts of the Cabotage Strategy and Cabotage Bill were completed and submitted for quality assurance.
• The African Maritime Charter was approved by Cabinet in May 2015 and by Parliament in February 2016.
• The Green Paper on the National Maritime Transport Policy was presented to the International Cooperation, Trade and Security (ICTS) Cluster in March 2016. Submission of the Green Paper to Cabinet was not approved by the DoT Executive Authority. DoT will prioritise the Green Paper in the new financial year to ensure all outstanding issues are addressed to enable submission to Cabinet.
• The Cabotage Policy was completed and included as a chapter in the Green Paper on the National Maritime Transport Policy that was presented to ICTS Cluster in March 2016. However, as with the Green Paper on the National Maritime Transport Policy, submission to Cabinet was not approved by the DoT Executive Authority. The process to develop the National Maritime Transport Policy process has been re-arranged to consider the Cabotage Policy.
• Maritime transport overspent its budget mainly due to R36.6 million paid to the International Oil Pollution Fund, and under spent on a number of projects, mainly the Feasibility Study on Tug Boat services (R6.8 million). The shortfall was covered by shifting funds across programmes.
Programme 7: Public Transport
• The reviewed Rural Transport Strategy was completed and submission to Cabinet has been approved.
• The national Learner Transport Policy was approved by Cabinet and subsequently published for implementation as targeted.
• A total of 3 226 old taxi vehicles were scrapped due to the increase in demand by operators; and the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme (TRP) Review was developed and its submission to Cabinet approved.
• Public Transport under spent on a number of projects, mainly the Review of the Taxi Recapitalisation Model (R55 million) and the Implementation of Integrated Public Transport Network Plans in District Municipalities (R28.8 million). The programme also underspent R82,6 million on the scrapping of taxis. A total of R184.3 million was shifted to other programmes to cover over expenditure on state funerals, eNatis and the International Oil Pollution Fund.
Mr Mokoena said DoT had a target to fill 80 positions in the year and managed to fill 53 where the vacancy rate decreased from 22.16% to 19.6%. The partial achievement of the target is related to budgetary constraints. 68 interns were recruited and placed across departmental branches. 9 junior employees completed the Project Management Learnership at NQF level 4. 152 bursaries were managed during 2015/16. The Department received a qualified audit report from the Auditor General for the first time in many years and the reason was that the auditors insisted on the inclusion of the eNATIS on the financial statements.
Unauthorised expenditure for the Department amounted to R 2 368 571 000 at March 2016. The unauthorised expenditure was incurred during 2008/09 and 2009/10 as a result of over expenditure on bus subsidies (R1 207 374 000) and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts recommended the approval of that amount as a direct charge against the National Revenue Fund. A total of R123.044 million was declared as irregular expenditure in 2015/16.
Mr V Magwebu (DA, Eastern Cape) noted that there is both an Acting CFO and an Acting DG in the DoT and asked the delegation to explain why that is the case and if that means that the Department does not have a Director General and Chief Financial Officer.
The Acting Director General replied that the Director General was put on suspension last year and is undergoing a disciplinary process and there seems to be an uncertainty about appointing a new DG or letting the suspended DG resume this responsibility. The decision depended on the outcome of the arbitration. The CFO has been seconded to PRASA to assist with the stabilisation of the organisation. The CFO will return once the PRASA has been stabilised and a Group CEO has been appointed.
Mr V Magwebu (DA) mentioned the Department’s financial report is characterised by over spending and under spending without providing reasons for these expenditures. There is a serious problem if the Department does not have a CFO given the challenges in the Department’s finances and this makes them vulnerable to fraud. The delegation was asked to provide a way to deal with the vulnerability to fraud and not having a CFO. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the DOT Administration programme and the way it was presented. The report indicated that an executive manager had tendered a resignation and there are several other investigations that are being conducted. What is the nature of these investigations and what is the actual number of investigations being conducted because the “several investigations” statement is vague and absurd. At what stage are these investigations and what was the nature of the misconduct that led to the resignation of the Executive Manager. He asked why the resignation was accepted if the misconduct was serious and how is the investigation going. There needs to be a detailed explanation in the presentation and not just state percentage of cases resolved. There should be a proper briefing on the nature of the cases, the number of cases received and detail of how cases have been resolved.
Ms M Dikgale (ANC) asked for a review of Public Transport Plans because there is still a serious problem in Limpopo about learner transport. She noted that new buses were found stationary in some areas of the Eastern Cape where students continue to walk long distances to school.
Mr W Faber (DA) asked under which department the Learner Transport Policy will now fall since it has been approved. Depending on the province sometimes it falls under the Department of Education or Department of Transport. How is it possible to regulate a policy that sometimes falls under Education and sometimes under Transport - there must be some national regulation in such cases. Is DoT perhaps in the process of handing Metrorail over to the different provinces as the quality of the trains is poor and they most are unreliable? What is the DoT doing about the Afro 400 Spanish train that derailed near Kimberley which has been lying there for almost a year because there are millions being lost there. What is the view of National DOT about the sinkhole that has formed near Kuruman in the Northern Cape?
Dr Y Vawda (EFF) mentioned that the Department should monitor the morbidity of traffic accidents on the roads and ensure that there is a solution to curb the causes of these. He expressed his concern on the over spending by almost R3 million by DOT which then takes away a lot of the good being presented, and the focus becomes the irregular and wasteful expenditure.
The Chairperson mentioned that DOT should work on filling the vacancies. He said there is tendency to hide behind budget constraints and he asked for an exact number of funded positions which have not been filled. Is the handover of airports to provincial departments a general norm, such as Mthatha airport handed over to the Eastern Cape government?
The Acting Director General replied that in the year under review there has been no irregular expenditure and the ones reported are from previous years. The reason for irregular expenditure was because of the litigation around eNATIS.
Mr Mokoena replied when the Department is undergoing a disciplinary process, the most harsh penalty outcome is dismissal. Some of the resignations are a result of people choosing to resign instead of undergoing the disciplinary process in case they receive a dismissal penalty at the end of the process. So DOT weighs the options and accepts some resignations based on those reasons. He said investigations into employees who have resigned do continue even after the employee has resigned.
On learner transport, he replied that DOT is responsible for the policy and he added that it would be nice to have uniformity in the provincial departments. In Limpopo, the DoT has issued Model Tender Documents which is a standard template for what needs to be used and done when it comes to procurement of services. The Department will continue to ensure that there is uniformity between both education and transport provincial departments.
Mr Mokoena said the sinkhole in Kuruman is a disaster and there are provisions that causes National Treasury to get involved in dealing with disasters. S’hamba Sonke has a disaster component.
Mr Mokoena said it is not necessarily a general norm to transfer an airport to a province but what will be done to Mthatha Airport will be the transfer of the upgrade to the Eastern Cape Province since the province was assisted by other stakeholders.
Ms M Dikgale (ANC) mentioned that the problem with the learner transport is that it is actually the learners and the Department of Education that is suffering. The report given to the Select Committee is not what has transpired on the ground which means DOT is not doing their part. How does the DoT intend to ensure that there is relief between both parties?
Acting CFO Mr Dan Pretorius was to address the questions about the financial statements and the pending disciplinary cases as well as cases reported to have been resolved
However, Mr Mr Magwebu interrupted and suggested that the DoT team be given time to respond to these questions in writing so that the Committee can be able to perform its oversight duties.
The Chairperson added that the response should include the vacancy concerns raised at the meeting and provide the actual number of funded vacant positions and the progress made in filling the positions. The DoT team was given seven days to respond in writing. He told the Acting CFO that he does not need to continue with the details of the disciplinary cases but rather respond in writing.
Mr J De Villiers, Acting DDG: Rail Transport, addressed the question about the Spanish-built train derailed near Kimberley saying that it has been removed and is now currently stabled in Bloemfontein. The reason the train was stationed there for a long time was because there was no maintenance contract for trains and the matter is currently being resolved in court.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation for their presentation and adjourned the meeting