The Department of Transport provided the Committee with a consolidated presentation on the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Systems. The Acting Chief Operations Officer (COO) at the Department of Transport provided a high-level overview of how the Department worked with a view to the implementation of the BRT. The Department monitored BRT in cities and was guided by the Division of the Revenue Act. The Act outlined the conditions of grants allocated to the cities and reporting structures. The Department encouraged cities to work with the provincial government. Some municipalities were performing better, whereas others were facing certain challenges. Gauteng ought to give the Department a sense of whether they were happy with the plans of Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Tshwane, make sure that those cities integrated their work and that they were delivering on the ground.
The Department provided insights from the workshop regarding the current status of the Integrated Public Transport Network Programme (ITPNP) for the 13 cities funded by the PTNG to implement and upgrade the public transport network services. In the 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years, grant allocations stood at R6.16 billion and R6.96 billion, respectively. The grant had been cut by 3% in the 2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) on top of a 3% cut in the 2016 MTEF. The Acting COO noted that due to city capacity and/or management instability, IPTNP implementation was still in the pilot phase with 10 of the 13 cities only starting operational planning post 2011/12. The size of the grants at R6 billion for 13 cities was a challenge considering that PRASA had over R10 billion for five major cities (see the attachment).
The Department asked the Committee to support its move to set up a Technical Assistant Unit that it had requested National Treasury to fund.
Members raised concerns over the non-performing municipalities and the absence of proper mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation, capacitating the municipalities and conducting internal auditing. Questions were asked in respect of the performance status of the City of Cape Town and why the BRT system was urban-oriented, as well as the role of province and SALGA in the implementation of the BRT system.
Members felt that both Provincial and National Departments had a role to play in order to address and avoid discontinuity and instability. There was also a need to rethink the traditional approach to implementing the BRT systems in that special attention should be given to ensuring accountability and to returning the investment. The Department should develop a consequence management plan for the non-performing municipalities. Members supported the funding of the Technical Assistance Unit.
The Chairperson opened the meeting by asking the delegates of the Department of the Transport to introduce themselves. He noted that if more than six members had been present, the Committee could have taken decisions. However, the meeting would carry on as planned as additional members might join the meeting.
Presentation by the Department of Transport
Ms Khibi Manana, Acting Chief Operations Officer: Department of Transport apologised on behalf of the Acting Director-General, Mr Mathabatha Mokonyama for his absence. She said that it had been a long week for him as he had been attending the Committee meetings from Tuesday. She stated that the delegation from the Department was there to give the Committee a high-level overview of how the Department worked with a view to implementation of the BRT. The Department played a monitoring role and, in so doing, they were guided by the Division of the Revenue Act. The Act outlined the conditions for grants allocated to the cities. The Act required cities to report to the Department either on a monthly or a quarterly basis. There were conditions that cities had to meet for the Department to consider them for funding. A template was given to each city annually which indicated conditions to be complied with. The template was important for the Department to compare trends within the years. In terms of intergovernmental arrangements, the Department encouraged cities to work with the provincial governments because it was very important to have the provinces on their sides. Some municipalities were performing better, whereas others were facing particular challenges. When cities submitted their budget proposal to the Department, questions asked included whether the working plan had been approved by the provincial government. Gauteng ought to give the Department a sense of whether they were happy with the plans of Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Tshwane, make sure that those cities integrated their work and that they were delivering on the ground. The work that was done by the Department would be reflected in the presentation.
Mr Ibrahim Seedat, Acting Chief Director: Public Transport Network Development took the Committee through the presentation. The main focus was on the Strategic Progress Report on the Public Transport Network Grant (PTNG). The presentation provided the Committee with inputs received at the workshop regarding the current status of the Integrated Public Transport Network Programme (ITPNP) for the 13 cities funded by the PTNG to implement upgraded public transport network services. In the 2017/18 and 2018/18 financial years, grant allocations stood at R6.16 billion and R6.96 billion, respectively. Grants had been cut by 3% in the 2017Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) on top of a 3% cut in the 2016 MTEF. He noted that due to city capacity and/or management instability, IPTNP implementation was still in the pilot phase in 10 of the 13 cities. Those cities had only started operational planning post 2011/12. The size of the grants at R6 billion for 13 cities was a challenge if compared to the fact that the PRASA had over R10 billion for five major cities (see the attachment).
In her concluding remarks, Ms Manana asked the Committee to support the Department’s move to set up a Technical Assistant Unit. They had made a request to the National Treasury to fund the unit.
Mr C Husinger (DA) welcomed the presentation and commented that he would support the Department’s short-term proposals. He remarked that it was imperative for the Committee to conduct an oversight of the major cities. He also accepted that the implementation of upgraded public transport network took time. It had started in 2000 and had taken so long due to technical conditions. There were cut in grants and changes in approaches. These were examples of problems that had resulted in the ITPNP not being executed. There was discontinuity and instability. Despite these challenges, he had faith in the Department. There was a need for reform in thinking so that the Department could overcome failures. He was concerned about the culture of thinking around BRT. They had to move away from the current culture of thinking. He proposed a workshop on strategies around BRT and for the Department to elaborate further on intervention plans with a view to implementation of the IPTNP. Both the Committee and the Department needed to focus on accountability and the return on the investment. He was also concerned about the achievement of targets in relation to the BRT and asked to be taken through those annual targets.
Mr M De Freitas (DA) wanted to hear from the Department as to why they needed more money from the National Treasury. What was the relationship between the Department and the Treasury? He expressed his dissatisfaction with the Department, stating that the City of Cape Town “was here but was not there yet”. The question was: when would the City of Cape Town arrive? Where exactly was the City of Cape Town? He asked whether cities should not be sanctioned if they were not complying or if they were not getting there. He suggested that criteria should be set out so that the Department should be able to identify cities that were complying and those who were not complying. Cities could not be allowed to justify their non-performance on the basis of mistakes and failures and thus be given additional conditional grants.
Ms S Xego (ANC) said that she was supporting the funding of a Technical Assistant Unit for the Department to be capacitated to do its work. The Committee had identified the weaknesses and strengths of the cities and could tell which cities ought to learn from others. The money (i.e. the conditional grants) should be given to those cities that were better performing. She was not concerned about saving money, but she was concerned about delivering services to the people. Those cities that were not performing were not serving the people. She urged the Committee to conduct oversight visits to see for itself how the cities performed and what could be done to improve their work. The non-performance of certain cities was reflected in the absence of senior management when cities were called to come and account to the Committee. Some delegations were led by Mayors whereas others had sent a questionable delegation. She said that the Department should encourage commonality among the cities. Referring to the legacy of non-performance which the Department had alluded to in slide 7, she supported an approach of funding those performing cities.
Mr T Mbanza (ANC) supported the establishment and funding of the Technical Assistant Unit. He remarked that the Department should also establish a coordinating team to support it and that the Department should give advice to the non-performing municipalities before sanctions could be imposed. He differed from Ms Xego on the question of how sanctions could be imposed. He viewed the withdrawal of conditional grants for non-performing municipalities as punishing the public. The public could not be denied services on the basis of management that was not performing. It was the management that should be punished, and not the community. The community needed services delivered on daily basis. In order to punish the management, the Department should establish a consequence plan for the management of non-performing municipalities.
Mr Mbanza asked about the role of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) in the implementation of the BRT systems. In the presentation, the role of SALGA was not clarified and its role should be certain. There should be a commitment to implement integrated transport plans and the Department should not merely commit itself to achieving targets. He asked whether there was a political will to implement the BRT Systems and remarked that if there was no political will, it would be difficult to implement the integrated transport system. Was there a political will to support the municipalities? He recommended that all municipalities should be visited by the Committee regardless of whether they were performing or not. The question of performing should be determined by the Committee and not be based on the good story provided by a municipality or the Department.
Mr T Mulaudzi (EFF) said that he was deeply disappointed by the Department because the delegation did not include either the Director General nor a Deputy Director General. There was no member from senior management. There was no accounting officer. The Committee should have been talking to the senior manager and not to junior management. He remarked that he believed that the delegation would convey the Committee’s message to senior management.
Mr Mulaudzi asked what criteria were being used to allocate money to the municipalities and why there was nothing happening in the rural areas. Because municipalities were focusing on cities, people would rush to the cities. Why were small or rural municipalities not supported? What was the problem with the PRASA? On the question of feeder routes, he noted that those routes could use taxis to feed the BRT routes. It was the aim of the BRT system to eradicate taxis, but taxis should be used to feed the BRT. He asked whether the Department was working with the provincial Departments of Transport. He sought clarity on the role of the provinces and on what the provinces were doing about the conditional grant received from the Department. Was the Department just dumping the finances without knowing what was happening? What was the role of provincial Departments in assisting the municipalities to get the capacity they needed? He stressed that the country was one country. It was just divided into three spheres of government. He asked a question about the existence of internal auditing and why municipalities were opting for consultancy services. For example, Rustenburg had, he thought, used R300 million for consultancy. He asked the Department to provide the Committee with a report on municipal internal audits. How were the small business, i.e. small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMMEs) and cooperatives benefitting? Why were people not being employed to do the relevant jobs as consultancy was too expensive? These were questions that could have been answered by the Director-General but, unfortunately, he was not there. Did the Department have copies of agreements between the SMMEs or cooperatives and municipalities?
The Chairperson said that the Department had been given opportunity to present immediately after the Committee’s engagement with municipalities. During municipal presentations, concerns were raised by both municipalities and Members. The views of the Department on those concerns were needed. He gave the Department two weeks to come back and brief the Committee on those concerns. Questions following the Department’s presentation, along with the questions raised by the municipalities and members in previous engagements, should be answered in writing.
The Chairperson commented that, since Tuesday, he had found the Members’ stance towards municipalities to be harsh on the people. Members were of the view that non-performing municipalities should be punished. This would have a greater impact on communities. Rather, the consequence management plan should be developed to apply to those municipal managements who were not complying. In the presentation, the Department spoke about George, Mangaung and Mbombela. These three cities had good quality buses, but with limited infrastructure. How could one expect them to perform any better? He did not think that the budget allocated to those cities was equivalent to the budget allocated to big cities. There were various reasons behind non-performance and the main problem was that the Committee had not been on the ground to ascertain the concerns. From 2007, municipalities had started with the maximum inclusion approach. However, the inclusion of taxis remained the question of concern. The minibus taxi had been in the industry a long time and could not just be taken away. He asked why so much money – billions of Rand – could be allocated to a programme which did not have a proper mechanism for monitoring. He referred to the City of Buffalo and noted that its challenges could have been addressed by the Department. Sadly, those challenges were not addressed due to the lack of a proper monitoring mechanism.
The Chairperson agreed that there ought to be an internal audit within municipalities and within the Department. There were municipalities that were advanced and others that were still in the dark. It was a surprise that the City of Buffalo had been returning money to the Treasury without the Department being aware of it. If the municipality lacked the capacity, the question would be: what was the role of the Department to ensure that the municipality was capacitated?
Mr de Freitas sought clarity on whether the Committee should have had reports for the three meetings for consideration and adoption prior to inviting the Department to brief the Committee on concerns and questions raised in those meetings. What would be a suitable timeframe?
The Chairperson noted that members would have ample time to go to their parties and discuss the matter and this should be done within the two weeks.
Ms Valerie Carelse, Secretary to the Chairperson, said that the Committee would develop its own report for consideration and adoption but that report would not be submitted to the House. She remarked that the Committee could not take a decision because there was no Chairperson and no Acting Chairperson was elected by members upon the commencement of the meeting as there had not been a quorum.
Ms Xego proposed that the Committee should elect the Acting Chairperson as there were more than six Members attending the meeting. She nominated Mr Sibande.
Mr De Freitas seconded and other Members agreed.
The Chairperson stated that all decisions of the Committee were binding.
Ms Manana agreed that the Department would respond in writing as requested. On the absence of the senior management, she responded that she had apologised on the behalf of the Acting Director General, who had been attending the Committee meetings for three consecutive days.
On the question of SALGA, she said that the Department was working hand-in-hand with SALGA. SALGA, for example, formed part of the Joint Budget Committee. So, the Department worked quite closely with them. SALGA also sat in other committee meetings and Departmental meetings. On the question of capacity building, she responded that the Department had to step in, if a municipality lacked capacity, to ensure that that municipality was capacitated. On the question of criteria used for conditional grants, she responded that the Treasury had developed the conditional grant formula or guideline, which the Department relied on to allocate grants. The formula gave preference for conditional grants to be allocated to major cities. On the question of why the Department was not focusing on rural municipalities, she responded that BRT systems were urban-oriented. However, the Department had a branch that dealt with rural areas. On the question of municipal internal auditing, she responded that municipalities were largely dependent on the Department. Despite such reliance, municipalities conducted their own internal audit. She said that the Department would brief the Committee on the question.
Mr Sonwabo Ciqegqe, Acting Executive Manager: SALGA, confirmed what the Department had said. There was great cooperation with the Department.
Mr de Freitas suggested that recommendations made by the Committee should be incorporated in the Committee report.
Ms Xego said that she wanted the full response in writing and the Department should be given reasonable time in which to respond.
The Chairperson agreed.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.