Department of Transport Budget & Programmes: briefing

NCOP Public Services

15 April 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

SELECT COMMITTEE: PUBLIC SERVICES

PUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
16 APRIL 2003
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT BUDGET & PROGRAMMES: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Ms PCP Majodina (ANC)

Documents handed out:
National Department of Transport presentation

SUMMARY
The Committee was briefed on the budget and programmes of the National Department of Transport. It was decided that the Committee would meet the Department quarterly to maintain contact and more effectively exercise its oversight functions. The Department's priorities included the need to accelerate the implementation of road safety programmes and taxi recapitalisation. The final draft of the aviation and maritime policy was due in June. The sharpest increase was to be found in the area of land transport where there had been major expenditure in developing infrastructure. Transport safety and security remained a major area of concern and the Department acknowledged that relationships with other Departments should be improved.

MINUTES

Briefing by Department of Transport
Professor MR Rwelamira: Acting Director-General, National Department of Transport (NDOT), introduced the delegation to the Committee: Mr Dan Pretorius: Chief Financial Officer, Mr Makokoane: Deputy Director-General and Ms Manana: Acting Director-General of the new branch concerning transport policy regulation.

Professor Rwelamira explained that the Department had been realigned with the addition of the Transport Policy and Regulation programme. He outlined the purpose of other departmental programmes:
-Corporate Services provide for policy formulation by the Minister and the Director-General as well as technological, financial, administrative and legal services.
-Land and Transport Management is involved with developing and maintaining infrastructure by providing national standards and guidelines to promote the affordable and efficient operation of transport.
-Public Transport and Planning aims to monitor and regulate public transport operations to achieve accountable and sustainable public transport systems. The strategic overview identified six main areas, namely public transport, infrastructure, safety, oversight over public entities as well as relations within SADC and towards NEPAD.

Professor Rwelamira then referred to the key priorities and challenges faced by the Department. The intention was to accelerate the implementation of Road Safety and Taxi Recapitalisation. The final draft of the Aviation and Maritime policy was due in June. Logistics regarding freight transport of exports remained a major challenge as the available capacity was not enough to cope with the growth potential. Another area of concern proved to be inter-governmental relations as the Department was dependent on provincial and local government structures to implement programmes. There had been interaction with the Minister's Committee as well as corporate government and management. There was congruence between key and overall priorities. He specifically mentioned the John Ross Highway, rural roads, taxi recapitalisation as well as the upgrading of roads at, and leading to, border posts. Transport safety and security remained a major area of concern as there were serious threats last year; relationships with other Departments should be improved.

Professor Rwelamira dealt with each programme's budget individually. Corporate Services amounted to R69 million, Land Transport Management to R1,49 billion, Transport Policy and Regulation to R146,6 million and Public Transport and Planning to R4,48 billion. With regard to the baseline budget, Professor Rwelamira said that there had been little growth foreseen for the budget in the medium term, increasing only as adjustment to inflation thus making it difficult for the Department to grow and undertake its various activities. Poverty Relief and Road Projects as well as infrastructure in the form of the South African Rail Commuter Corporation were also included in the baseline budget.

Professor Rwelamira said that additional funds had been requested and allocated over the medium term period, including funds allocated after reprioritisation. The increase in expenditure followed a gradual, incremental pattern. The major increase from 2002 to 2003 was the result of the increase in bus subsidies and road budgets. The sharpest increase was to be found in Land Transport where there had been major expenditure in developing infrastructure. Public Entities generating their own income would receive allocations from the Department, but funds would be allocated towards Driver's Licence and Testing Centres (DLTC's) as well as buses. Additional funding would have to be sought from sources outside the medium term budget allocation, namely the Road Accident Fund and the Overloading Control Fund amounting to R60 million.

Anticipated rollovers for the current financial year amounted to R113 841, the biggest allocations to be towards the construction of the Umtata Railway Line and the Road Traffic Infringements Agency.

Discussion
The Chair asked for an update on the issue of bus subsidies and asked if the previously disadvantaged were benefiting from these subsidies. If this was not the case, the subsidies would promptly be suspended. Regarding maritime transportation, she asked about procedure for the reporting of those workers who died at sea. She asked where the Poverty Relief projects were located so that Committee Members could inspect them during the constituency weeks. She also asked about progress made with the upgrading of vehicle testing centres.

With regard to subsidies, Professor Rwelamira said that there had been consultation with National Treasury concerning subsidies for bus as well as rail transport. The focus should move from workers to include all poor people. Concerning safety at sea, the Professor said that this remained an area of concern as it involved a number of other Departments including Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Safety and Security and NDOT. A number of initiatives were already in place to promote safety at sea, including a manual on safety measures distributed amongst small fishing concerns. Funds had been allocated towards Maritime Rescue although the South African Defence Force provide this service. The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) was also granted funds, but resources remained limited.

With respect to Poverty Relief projects, a breakdown would be presented at a later stage. Funding was limited and further finance would have to be sought after reprioritisation.

Mr Windvoel (ANC) asked whether there were any Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programmes in place. Concerning maritime safety, he asked if there were links with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. He referred to the Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport and asked about aviation standards, safety and customs. He asked why there had been a decrease in the funds allocated to driver's licence and testing centres. Mr Windvoel also asked about railway safety measures and pointed out the high rate of pedestrian deaths.

Professor Rwelamira said that the location of the Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport posed a problem in 2002, and after the matter had been taken to court, it had been decided that the airport would be built in Mpumalanga. In terms of the Constitution, it remained the function of the province to develop the airport and the NDOT's function to either approve or disapprove the granting of the licence. The status of the Nelspruit airport had been downgraded to a domestic airport while the Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport would be designated as an international point of entry by the Department of Home Affairs. This would include the appointing of customs officials and officers before flights to and from the airport could be cleared.

Professor Rwelamira explained that R21 million had been allocated to the DLTC's and for the conversion of drivers' licences. This was a provincial and local government function. Concerning black economic empowerment programmes, the Professor said that there had been a move towards competitive tendering, which held implications of quotas. He said that these should be finalised within the following two weeks. Railway safety regulations had been put in place, there was a board and skeleton staff were about to be appointed.

On the question of border posts, Professor Rwelamira said that the main concern was inter-governmental relations as it was provincial roads leading to the border posts, and thus the National Road Agency could not be approached. Progress in this area was explained as uneven, but the main focus was on ports at major export points. With regard to pedestrian deaths, Professor Rwelamira said that the matter would be addressed as soon as better inter-governmental relations were established. Danger areas had already been identified. Concerning the freight airport, the Professor said that the King Shaka Airport would serve as a platform for exports as it was near the Guateng province.

Dr Nel (NNP) asked how the backlog in the upgrading and maintenance of roads would be addressed since there had been a decrease in funds allocated to the National Road Agency between 2003 and 2004. He asked whether fraud and corruption still posed a problem as it had been reported that 50% of new licences were found to be invalid.

Mr Pretorius said that a new plan for Poverty Relief had been drafted and was currently being evaluated by National Treasury. Larger rollovers were expected as the state no longer serviced unsustainable debts.

The Chair asked whether 30 April 2003 was the final deadline to obtain new licence cards. She said that the Department should inform the Committee on the question of taxi recapitalisation.

Professor Rwelamira explained that Section 18 of the Road Traffic Act empowered the Minister to determine when ID book licences were invalid. There were categories of people who had not yet converted their licences. The only category to be granted an extension would be those who had not been captured onto the system in the first place. There would not be another extension as this resulted in a slowing of the conversion process.

Mr Raju pointed out that 50% of new licences were reported to be illegal.

Professor Rwelamira said that reports had misconstrued the issue. An internal study had been conducted in 1998 as part of the process leading to the introduction of the credit-card licences. The study had revealed that close to 50% of DLTC's might not comply with the requirements. It was then found that 50% of licences would be found to be irregular, not illegal. He reiterated that most irregularities would be detected.

Dr Nel asked why no funds had been allocated to the Free State to upgrade DLTC's.

Professor Rwelamira said that the omission had not been intentional as each province operated according to different procedures. A Corruption Unit had been established and a Fraud and Corruption Strategy had been put in place.

The Chair said that issues had been identified and points noted. She suggested that further questions be addressed to the Director-General's office as there were further issues to be clarified. She thanked the Department for its accessibility and said that the Committee would assist in any way as well as play its oversight role.

The meeting was adjourned.

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