The Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW) said it had performed in the first quarter while having to contend with a growing demand for services at a time when the input costs were increasing. It had not achieved all the performance targets set out in its five-year cycle, and given the context of its performance, the constraints had increased. Despite these negatives, the Department had spent 100% of its budget, maintained five years of clean audit, and the fact that it had not achieved all of its targets was not an indication that services were not being delivered.
The DTPW had recently completed the R186 million rehabilitation of sections of the R44 between Gouda and Porterville. Various structures and bridges and culverts had also been rehabilitated and extended. A total of R16 million had been spent on targeted enterprises, R20 million on suppliers and R6 million on emerging contractors. The newly upgraded R487 million N1/Old Oak bridge project was set to ease city congestion. A R15 million project had commenced to refurbish the Knysna High School boarding hostel which had been damaged by fire in June 2017, and two new health infrastructure projects would see the Gansbaai clinic being extended, and the building of a new day clinic at the Laingsburg Hospital.
Members raised questions about driver fatigue testing, and the extent of bus services being subsidised.
The background and objectives of the Expanded Public Works Programme were explained to the Committee. It aimed to draw significant numbers of unemployed people into productive work, accompanied by training. It was a nationwide programme covering all spheres of government and state-owned enterprises. The selection of each worker was based on a clear set of criteria to minimise patronage and abuse during selection to ensure target group benefits. The work output of each EPWP project should contribute to enhancing the public good or community services.
The Committee wanted to know if there were any guidelines which could be given to municipalities in order to ensure that the selection criteria were upheld. Did the municipalities have a central database which was linked to the provincial and national reporting databases? Concern was expressed that the EPWP could be seen as exploitation of the vulnerable, and a Member wanted the Department to elaborate on the kind of training being done, and if the money they received actually made a difference to their lives.
Transport and Public Works: First Quarter Performance Report
Ms Jacqui Gooch, Head of Department (HOD): Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW), said the Department had performed while having to contend with a growing demand for services at a time of increasing input costs. It had not achieved all the performance targets set out in its five-year cycle. Given the context of the Departmental performance, the constraints had increased.
Despite these negatives, the Department had spent 100% of their budget, maintained five years of clean audit, and the fact that the Department had not achieved all of its performance targets was not an indication that services were not being delivered.
A R15 million project had commenced to refurbish the Knysna High School boarding hostel which was damaged by fire in June 2017.
The DTPW had started two new health infrastructure projects:
- Extending the Gansbaai Clinic and improving its existing facilities; and
- Building a new day clinic at the Laingsburg Hospital and making improvements at the site. These projects for the provincial Department of Health were expected to be completed in March 2020 and July 2020 respectively.
The DTPW had recently completed the rehabilitation of sections of the R44 between Gouda and Porterville. This R186 million project had started in July 2017. Previously, the road and pavement was in a state of disrepair and the geometric alignment was not in accordance with current requirements. Improvements had been made to make the road fit for purpose by providing a new road surface, widening the road for better traffic and pedestrian safety, and upgrading access to Gouda. Various structures and bridges and culverts were also rehabilitated and extended. A total of R16 million had been spent on targeted enterprises, R20 million on suppliers, and R6 million on emerging contractors.
Roadworks near Wilderness had been completed. Motorists were enjoying a safer and more pleasant travelling experience near Wilderness after the rehabilitation of Hoekwil Road and Saasveld Road had reached a practical completion. This R102 million project had started in October 2017 and included the construction of bus stops and sidewalks in Touwsranten. During the course of the project, a total of R14 million was spent on targeted enterprises, and R4 million on targeted local labor.
The newly upgraded R487 million N1/Old Oak bridge project was set to ease city congestion. The Oak Bridge upgrade project, which had spanned three years, using a R487 million investment in roads infrastructure by the DTPW, had been completed. With the project now completed, motorists could expect a smoother flow of traffic on both the inbound and the outbound lanes.
There was a new Bill that seeks to improve rail safety and service standards.
Unfortunately, across the country and specifically here in the Western Cape, the passenger rail service had been in a state of crisis, characterised by declining performance capacity, punctuality, safety, and an increase in cancellations and overcrowding. In the Western Cape, these issues had been exacerbated by crippling arson attacks, theft and vandalism. There was no questioning the important role that passenger rail plays in providing high-capacity, affordable, efficient and rapid access to destinations in any metropolitan area, including the City of Cape Town. Road-based public transport simply does not compare with the bulk carriage capabilities of an efficient passenger rail system.
The draft Western Cape Rail Transport Bill (2019) had been published for comment in response to the very serious and urgent need to address the issues plaguing rail transportation in this province. The draft Bill seeks to improve rail safety and rail service standards in the Western Cape and makes proposals on how this could be achieved.
In terms of transport regulations, learners from Graafwater Primary School had been taught about road safely. Traffic officials had explained basic road safety tips to learners. Children were taught to watch and listen for oncoming traffic, and what to do when a vehicle approached. Then, wearing reflective bibs, learners and their teachers walked on the pavement to a traffic circle where they were taught how to cross safely. A safety demonstration was also conducted on the pedestrian crossing in front of the school.
The DTPW and the Cape Agulhas Municipality recently launched the new junior traffic training centre (JTTC) at the Protea Primary School in Napier. This simulated road environment features permanent miniature road signs, road markings and a parking area. It provides a safe place for learners to learn how to use roads responsibly. The DTPW was confident that this JTTC would become a visible symbol of road safety; a place where Napier’s children could learn good road use habits at an early age.
Mr D America (DA) referred to the completion of the Gouda project, and asked the Department if this project had been completed within the designated time and budget, and if not, why not.
Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) mentioned tests for driver fatigue, and asked the Department if they needed stronger legislation in place in order to force fatigued drivers to take a break and to deem it an offence if a driver was driving when he had reached a certain level of fatigue. Regarding the targets which showed a deviation, especially with regard to budgets, he asked if the Department would be able to point out which of these targets were the provincial, and which were national targets. Finally, the Old Oak bridge project was an expensive one, so he wanted to know the extent to which fund-raising may be done for such infrastructure projects.
Mr L Mvimbi (ANC) wanted to know if the Golden Arrow bus services were the only bus services being subsidised. He said the fatigue testing was a good initiative, but he wanted to know if it was possible to scientifically detect the level of fatigue in a driver, the same way one measured the level of alcohol in a driver.
Ms Gooch said she was led to believe that there were scientific ways to check whether somebody was fatigued. The fatigue awareness programme happened at roadblocks with people from health services who worked with the DTPW. With regards to long distance journeys, the Department monitors the time taken to travel between checkpoints by way of stickers, and if a driver has traveled between checkpoints much quicker than the estimated time, this may also be an indication that they had not taken some time to rest. The traffic officers were fully within their legislative powers to take the keys of a fatigued driver and order them to take a break. Currently, there was no offence listed for driving while fatigued.
The other bus services which were being subsidised included the MyCiti service, as well as the bus services in the George area.
The majority of the indicators were national indicators, but there were demarcations in the performance plans which showed where indicators were not national ones.
Regarding -he extent to which fund-raising could be done, the Department had approached National Treasury to try and bid for more funds from the large scale infrastructure projects fund.
Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP)
Mr Richard Petersen, Chief Director: Expanded Public Works Programme, said the EPWP had been introduced in 2003 as one of the government’s major public employment programmes as part of its anti-poverty strategy. It aimed to draw significant numbers of unemployed people into productive work, accompanied by training.
The EPWP was a nationwide programme covering all spheres of government and state-owned enterprises. It involved re-orientating line function budgets and conditional grants for government expenditure to result in the creation of work opportunities.
Public Employment Programmes (PEPs) had a long history of being used to address issues such as labour market disruptions and recession. Internationally, PEPs were seen as part of on-going employment and social protection policies used to create short to medium employment opportunities for vulnerable groups in society. The EPWP was not intended to displace existing permanent jobs, and opportunities must be on a real demand for services.
The selection of each worker should be based on a clear set of criteria to minimise patronage and abuse during selection, and to ensure target group benefits. This selection should also happen in accordance with clear, transparent and fair procedures. The work output of each EPWP project should contribute to enhancing public good or community services.
A minimum labour-intensity benchmark appropriate to each sector should be set, as sectors differ too much to apply a common standard across all sectors. Furthermore, programmes within each sector would also be encouraged to set their own benchmarks.
Poor unemployed people would improve their wellbeing by acquiring work-based skills and workplace experience, enhancing their potential to find further work in the formal or informal sector, earning an increased income and improving their household security, and benefiting from improved service delivery and infrastructure in their communities.
An impact assessment on the Department’s Building Facilities Maintenance Programme (BFMP) had been conducted in April 2016. About 141 participants had participated in the survey to test the experience of participants on an EPWP project, such as the BFMP project. The sample of participants represented 52% of the group of participants that were contactable. A total of 24.5% of respondents had temporary or permanent jobs, and 39.7% had been unemployed. The largest group of respondents had been between the ages of 35 and 49 years (46.51%), while 31.01% were between the ages of 19 and 34 years.
In the West Coast District Municipality there was a permanent employment of two fire fighters (Clanwilliam and Malmesbury), and in the Cederberg Municipality, 15 EPWP employees were employed permanently.
Mr America (DA) asked the Department if there was a tracking mechanism to ascertain whether the allocated funds and grants have been spent in the intended manner, and if not, whether funds could be recouped and redirected to those municipalities and provincial departments that actually did spend these funds in the correct manner. Secondly, was there any prescriptive way in which the Department could see which programmes were the most suited to be given funding.
The Chairperson wanted to know if there were any guidelines which could be given to municipalities in order to ensure that the selection criteria were upheld. He also wanted to know whether the municipalities had a central database which was linked to the provincial and national reporting database.
Mr Van der Westhuizen said he was concerned that the EPWP could be seen an exploitation of the vulnerable, and wanted the Department to elaborate on the kind of training being done, and if the money they received actually made a difference to their lives.
Mr Petersen said that the grants were nationally allocated, so municipalities were expected to report on a regular basis according to a set template on their expenditure. The Department also played a role in overseeing that these reports were done. This helped with the tracking of how the funds were being spent.
The EPWP allowed implementing bodies to pay a rate which was lower than the national minimum wage, because the idea was to absorb as many people as possible. Over the last 15 years, the EPWP had made a significant change to the lives of the participants. The last thing that the programme wanted to do was to exploit people. In fact, its aim was to empower them and create employment opportunities, even if they may be temporary. The training methods differed, depending on the project at hand.
Mr Petersen pointed out that there was a national set of guidelines when it came to the recruitment of participants, and that municipalities were encouraged to keep a central data base. The national Department of Labour also had a database.
The meeting was adjourned.