Economic Regulation of Transport Bill: deliberations; Transport BRRR; National Road Traffic Amendment Bill: consideration of submissions; COSATU memorandum

This premium content has been made freely available


24 November 2020
Chairperson: Mr M Zwane (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

Documents handed out: COSATU Memorandum
2020 BRRRs

The Committee deliberated on the Economic Regulation of Transport Bill. Members raised questions about the adequacy of public input on the Bill and argued that it would not solve the underlying land issues which caused high transport prices. They expressed support for continuing to process the Bill, noting that a thoroughly prepared account of the structural and financial impact of the Regulator on the Department of Transport and particularly on existing regulators would be necessary.

The Committee considered a draft of its Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report for 2019/20. Members expressed concern about the large number of items in the report which were repeated virtually unchanged from the previous year’s report, and asked for the Committee’s dissatisfaction with repeated non-performance to be more strongly expressed. They drew attention to the gap between the Department’s key performance indicators and the experiences of the public and to performance targets that seemed to be designed to justify bonuses for executives and managers rather than for promoting service delivery. They were particularly unhappy with the conduct of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency.

The Committee considered submissions on the National Road Transport Amendment Bill. Although more than 6 900 submissions had been received, Members noted that this was a small number relative to the number of people who would be directly affected by the Bill. They were not satisfied with the extent to which the Bill had been advertised. They called for an extension of the submission period and for the Bill to be advertised on radio.

The Committee considered a memorandum from COSATU calling for a strike to draw attention to the fact that taxi drivers, guards and queue marshals had not been included in relief provided to the taxi sector to cushion it from the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown. They were also unable to access the Compensation Fund when they were injured on duty. The Committee noted the memorandum, observing that some of the issues raised, such as the formalisation of the taxi industry, were currently being handled by the Department, and that the Committee would welcome opportunities for further engagement on the issues raised with related committees and departments.

Meeting report

The Chairperson accepted apologies from the Minister and Deputy Minister of Transport  and the Director-General of the Department of Transport.

Deliberations on the Economic Regulation of Transport Bill [B1 – 2020]

Mr K Sithole (IFP) asked for a consolidated summary of the public submissions received.

Mr L Mangcu (ANC) said that most of the issues dealt with in the Department of Transport’s response to the public submissions were definitions. These had been dealt with satisfactorily. The only other big issue was the question of the role of the Regulator with respect to the Competition Commission (CC), which had also been dealt with satisfactorily. He was concerned that not much input on the Bill had been received from the end-users of transport services, as well as e-hailing drivers, who were intended to benefit from the Bill. Nevertheless, in the country’s current economic state, the Bill was crucial and should be processed to its logical conclusion.

Ms N Nolutshungu (EFF) added that minibus taxi operators had also not made any submission on the Bill. She argued that the government could not solve the problems created by taxi fares without addressing the underlying land issues which made it necessary for people to travel such long distances to get to work. The reality was that the cost of transport was as high as it was because of where people lived. She doubted whether the government would be able to regulate the prices, given that there was a free economy, but the privatisation of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) would be a big mistake. The state needed to focus on building a solid, sustainable state-owned transport system which would enable it to take its developmental mandate into account. The EFF did not see why the Bill was important.

Mr C Hunsinger (DA) supported the further development of the Bill. He said that more detail on the role of the proposed Regulator with respect to existing sub-sector regulators was needed. He was also concerned about how the proposed Regulator would be funded, and what financial implications it might have for other departmental entities if revenue was redirected away from them. A focussed presentation on the structural and financial implications of the Bill was required. He noted that the opening of rail infrastructure to private operators did not amount to the privatisation of the rail sector.

Mr P Mey (FF+) said that the FF+ supported the establishment of a single Regulator for the transport sector.

The Committee Secretary explained that the Department was present in order to provide clarity on any matters raised by Committee Members.

Mr Mangcu was not opposed to hearing the Department’s responses, but noted that the Committee had the final say on the progress of the Bill. He did not think that there was anything that the Department needed to respond to immediately. He did not think the Department would be able to provide a sufficiently comprehensive response to the financial questions at this point, for example. He also agreed that there were groups, such as taxi operators, who felt that they had been left out of the process, but the processing of the Bill needed to continue.

Mr Hunsinger said that he did not want an off-the-cuff response to his questions but a thoroughly prepared account of the structural and financial impact of the Regulator.

Consideration of the draft Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR)

Mr Mangcu was concerned about the pattern of non-response to matters raised in the previous year’s BRRR. For example, the Committee was making the same recommendations on vacancies and on integrated transport planning as it had in 2018/19. The Committee needed to express itself strongly on this matter, otherwise it would be sitting with the same situation next year again. He said that the report should be consistent in its references to the Minister of Transport and it was not necessary to include his name. The percentage of underspending should be indicated for all of the Department’s programmes. The Committee’s recommendations on the Department’s irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure needed to be expressed much more strongly. It was disappointing to see that some of the performance targets that the Department had set for itself had not been met. The Committee needed to send a stronger message on the failures of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA). The Committee had not had a good impression of its management when it had visited. It did not seem able to deliver on its mandate and the reasons given were not acceptable. A much stronger expression of the threat caused by the funding uncertainty of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) to the financial sustainability of the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) was required. While the decrease in unauthorised expenditure was welcomed, the report needed a stronger message on supply chain management issues. He also asked for some of the language in the recommendations section to be clarified.

Mr Hunsinger also noticed many issues were coming up for the second year running. The Committee made good recommendations but no action was taken. The tone of the 2019/20 BRRR therefore needed to be stronger on these matters. It could not be parallel to that of previous years and needed to make more specific recommendations. There were ongoing concerns about the Department’s spending priorities and effectiveness. There was a gap between its key performance indicators and the experiences of the public, and performance targets seemed to be designed to justify bonuses for executives and managers instead of promoting service delivery. The sustainability of capital budgets and debt burdens was another ongoing issue, as were unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and the lack of effective consequence management. He appreciated the broader powers of financial control that had been granted to the Auditor-General and National Treasury, and the Committee needed to support these bodies to use these powers.

Mr T Mabhena (DA) said that the opening statement on rail policy in the BRRR was a bit misleading. The statement on the GFIP was a bit simplistic and should be stronger and more specific. The Department consistently delayed reporting to the committee on the GFIP. He noted the high number of performance agreements that the Department had signed with its employees but without seeing the content of these agreements, there was no way for the Committee to know whether they were substantial.

Mr L McDonald (ANC) was concerned that the R64 billion that had been spent by the Department in 2019/20 had not yielded value for money. He said R13 billion had been spent on rail transport, but the rail system simply was not working. He asked for information on the R637.5 million of fruitless and wasteful expenditure that had been condoned. He said that performance targets and bonuses were divorced from service delivery realities. The committee should not accept the letter from the RTIA on the non-submission of its annual report. On the basis of its content and spelling mistakes, he doubted whether the Minister could have actually read it. The RTIA was disrespecting the committee.

Mr Mey agreed that billions of Rand were being spent by Prasa and yet its situation continued to deteriorate. More oversight and stronger spending controls were required.

Adv Alma Nel, Committee Content Advisor, confirmed the large number of repeated recommendations in the 2019/20 BRRR. She welcomed the requests for stronger language and asked Members to help develop stronger wording where possible.

Consideration of submissions on the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill [B 7– 2020]

The Committee Secretary said that over 6 900 submissions on the Bill had been received, mostly from members of the general public but also more detailed submissions from organisations or representatives.

Mr Mangcu asked where the opportunity for public comment on the Bill had been advertised. The number looked big but relative to the driving population who would be affected by the Bill it was actually very small. Had community radio stations been used?

Mr Sithole asked if the submission period could be extended. The taxi industry would be deeply affected by the Bill but there was no submission from them.

The Committee Secretary explained that Parliament contracted the placement of adverts to an external company. In this case, the Bill had been advertised in Rapport and the Sunday Times as well as some regional newspapers. It was also published on Twitter and Facebook. The responsibility for radio adverts resided with Parliamentary Communication Services (PCS), and she was unsure of the criteria for radio advertisement of Bills. As the matter had come up repeatedly, she would raise the matter with her manager.

Mr Mangcu said that the advertising of the Bill was not sufficient. How many people read hard copy newspapers? It should be possible to advertise it through South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) radio at the very least in as many languages as possible. He had heard other Bills advertised on radio. For a Parliament that wanted to call itself an activist Parliament, the level of advertising was unacceptably low. Even if the submission period was extended, where were people going to find out about the Bill?

Mr McDonald added that the majority of people did not read the Sunday Times or Rapport. It should be advertised through SABC and community radio in all official languages. The Committee should have the power to decide on how the Bill was advertised.

Mr Sithole agreed that the Bill should be more widely advertised.

Ms M Ramadwa (ANC) also agreed. Information needed to reach both urban and rural areas, and public participation should not be done just for the sake of compliance. She asked for a list of the names of all the people who had made submissions on the Bill.

Ms Nolutshungu suggested that the submission period be extended and the Bill be advertised on radio. She also asked for a list of names of submitters.

The Committee Secretary explained that it would take a long time to compile a list of all the names. The decision on advertising through radio was the prerogative of PCS, and her manager had written to PCS to enquire about it. She would relay the response to the committee.

Mr Mangcu asked if the response could include the cost of advertising through various media channels.

Consideration of the COSATU memorandum (National day of strike and day of action)

The Chairperson explained that the memorandum had been forward to various committees by the Speaker.

Mr McDonald said that the Committee should support COSATU’s endeavours to support South African workers, but was concerned that strikes sometimes led to the destruction of infrastructure and the disruption of work. The Committee needed to look at ways to mitigate the negative effects of strikes, while still supporting the labour unions.

Ms Carelse said that the issue raised by the memorandum was that taxi drivers, guards and queue marshals had not been included in relief provided to the taxi sector to cushion it from the effect of lockdown. They were also unable to access the Compensation Fund when they were injured on duty.

Adv Nel explained that COSATU’s concerns were well founded. There was a struggle with getting Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) payments to people in the taxi industry as well as e-hailing drivers. The informal nature of the taxi industry posed many challenges, while e-hailing drivers were in some ways at even greater risk, as e-hailing service providers often argued that they merely provided connections between passengers and drivers, and they were not even protected by the sectoral determination that covered workers in the taxi industry.

Mr Mangcu noted that the “way forward” section of the memorandum seemed to be directed at the Executive branch of government and wondered what the Speaker expected of the Committee. Perhaps the Committee could raise some of the issues, which were genuine, as part of its oversight of the Department?

The Committee Secretary explained that the Speaker had forwarded it to the committees to indicate that Parliament should remain responsive to the concerns of workers in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the Committee should submit a progress report by the end of the year.

Mr Hunsinger observed that access to UIF and Compensation Fund benefits was related directly to a particular condition of employment. The precise conditions of access would be handled by the Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour. However, perhaps relief for people affected financially by COVID-19 and the lockdown should not be conditional on a particular relationship but rather based on the fact that an incident had occurred, similar to the Road Accident Fund (RAF). He suggested that the Committee should not merely pass the matter on to the Department of Employment and Labour, but invite engagement and build relationships and perhaps look for a different way of thinking about it.

Ms Ramadwa called for timelines to be established for the Department of Transport to report on progress on the formalisation of the taxi industry. The issues raised by COSATU’s memorandum were very important to workers.

The Chairperson said that the Committee should note the memorandum, observing that some of the issues raised, such as the formalisation of the taxi industry, were currently being handled by the Department, and that the committee would welcome opportunities for further engagement on the issues raised with related committees and departments.

Consideration and adoption of draft minutes of proceedings and other committee matters

The minutes of the meeting on 17 November 2020 were adopted with minor corrections.

The Chairperson suggested consulting with two Ndebele royal families in the KwaMhlanga region as part of its oversight.

Mr Mangcu supported this suggestion.

Ms Ramadwa also supported this suggestion and also requested that Members be given itineraries in advance of oversight visits to give them enough time to alter them if required.

Mr Mabhena recalled that the Committee had not yet received an explanation for why it had not been invited to the taxi industry lekgotla.

Mr Hunsinger asked about progress on the Committee’s register of resolutions and decisions.

The Committee Secretary replied that the decision register had been circulated to the Committee.

Adv Nel explained that the decision register was a long document. It had been compiled from Committee reports, oversight reports and minutes. She also noted that the decisions of the Committee only became official once they were captured in the minutes. The register would not necessarily include specific questions, such as requests for documents.

The meeting was adjourned.


No related documents

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.

Share this page: