The Committee received a briefing in a virtual meeting from the Department of Transport (DOT) on the draft Minimum Service Delivery Standards (MSDS) in terms of section 75 (6) of the National Road Traffic Act.
The Committee welcomed the report and commented that it showed the progress that had been made, particularly on the service level agreements (SLAs) and the standard service delivery charters (SSDCs), which covered three service delivery-related areas -- driver's license testing centres (DLTCs), vehicle testing stations (VTSs) and registering authorities (RAs).
Members expressed their concern about customer complaints of poor service at DLTCs, with long queues, and delays in attaining a booking for a learner's or driver's licence and the renewal of licences. During an oversight visit to a centre in Giyani, Members had found only one cashier working at the front desk. In addition, the officials had closed the doors at 14h00, even though the official closing time was 16h00. The matter had been referred to the Mayor, who had replied that the municipality did not have the funds to hire additional cashiers. The Department said it would follow up on the matter with the municipality.
As part of their recommendations, the Committee suggested that the Department should look to further digitise the booking process for services at DLTCs, VTSs and RAs, as this would lead to a decline in the time people spent at testing centres, which would increase productivity, decrease the risk of Covid-19 spreading, and allow office workers to plan properly. The Department noted this suggestion, and informed the Committee that it had a website which was being managed and overseen by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), which provided customers various options on what they could book for. The Department and the RTMC had recently received approval from National Treasury to introduce further online services, and this would further digitise the current system.
The Chairperson said that the Department of Transport (DoT) would brief the Committee on the draft Minimum Service Delivery Standards (MSDS) in terms of section 75 (6) of the National Road Traffic Act. Once the briefing was completed, Members would deliberate on the report, the programme for the third term, and then adopt the outstanding minutes for this term.
The Committee noted apologies from the Minister, the Deputy Minister, and the Director-General.
Briefing on DoT’s MSDS
Adv Johannes Makgatho, Chief Director: Road Regulation, DoT, said the idea of developing a MSDS first originated at the 2011 Forum of South African Director Generals. The purpose of having an MSDS was to improve service delivery within the country, and it was decided that the DoT would be one of the pilot departments. The first version of its MSDS was published on 19 November 2013 in the Government Gazette, but due to a number of shortfalls identified, the Act was redrafted and a new draft Act was published on 20 November 2020. This draft sought to address all of the challenges experienced by clients at Driving Licence Training Centres (DLTCs) and Vehicle Testing Stations (VTSs), such as long queues, a lack of clear signage, fraud and corruption. Central to the MSDS’s plans for renewal were the Standard Service Delivery Charters (SSDC) and service level agreements (SLAs), which had been worked on extensively.
The Chairperson opened the floor for discussion.
Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) said that at the request of the public, he had visited some of the licensing offices in Gauteng. Many citizens had complained that they had struggled to get a date when booking at a centre, and some had claimed that it was faster to get a booking through a driving school.
At one of the offices, the officials claimed that they took only bulk licence renewal applications, not single applications. This matter required attention.
Ms B Mathevula (EFF, Limpopo) said that while conducting an oversight visit at a Giyani licensing centre, she found only one cashier at the front desk. In addition, the officials had closed the doors at 14h00, even though the official closing time was 16h00. She had reported the matter to the Mayor, who had responded that the municipality did not have the budget to hire additional cashiers.
Many, if not most, of the centres did not cater for the Public Works Department (PWD). The Department should look at improving the infrastructure, to ensure that the PWD also had access to the facilities.
There should be an allocation of officials who could communicate using sign language, at the testing centres.
A sign should be placed at each testing station, providing customers with a hotline number which they could use to report instances of corruption because as it stands, most did not know where to report incidents of corruption.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked whether this second version of the MSDS included comments made by the public and other stakeholders during the public participation period for the first version. Going forward, did the department expect that the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to call for public participation on the draft bill?
The Chairperson said that the implementation of the MSDS would first be trialled in the DoT. He asked whether the MSDS would be applied to other government departments.
Section 75 (6) did not place any obligation on either of the two Houses in Parliament to produce a report on the matter. He asked whether this suggested that there would first have to be an amendment before Parliament could produce a report. If so, did these sections not reduce the importance of the Batho Pele principles?
Still referring to section 75 (6), he said that there was a particular time period for when the comments should be submitted, and this should not be ignored.
Section 75 (6) also stated that before the Minister made any regulation, the Minister may, if he or she deemed it expedient, cause a draft of the proposed regulation to be published in the gazette, together with a notice calling upon all interested persons to lodge comments in writing within a period specified in the notice, but not less than four weeks from the date of publication of the notice. He asked for clarity on what this meant for Parliament.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) said that similar to a visa application, a licence renewal should be made by appointment. Customers should be allowed to choose the centre of their choice to book an appointment, and payment for the appointment could be done online. Once they had booked their appointment, customers could have their photographs taken at a Cepartment-approved supplier, who could then upload it digitally. An accredited optometrist could then conduct an eye test for the driver’s licence. If all of these functions were covered, there would be a decline in the time people spent at testing centres, which would increase productivity, decrease the risk of Covid-19 spreading, and allow office workers to plan properly.
Ms Shamara Ally, Procedural Officer at Parliament, said that the Ministry had incorrectly quoted sections 75 (6) in the document presented. An Amendment Act had been passed in 2008 which gave the Minister the power to propose regulations. The issue of the timeframes had been queried with the Secretary to Council, and there were subsequent discussions during the procedural meetings. During the discussions, it had been established that the timeframes referred to applied only to individuals outside of Parliament. Furthermore, Parliament did not fall into the four-week period provided by Section 75 (6)(b), as this referred only to individuals outside of Parliament, meaning that it could comment after this period.
Adv Makgatho said that in an attempt to reduce the fraud and corruption present at testing centres, Gauteng residents had been encouraged to conduct an online application for their licence. Recently there had been an issue with the availability of slots, but the department was working with the RTMC and the Gauteng DoT to ensure that the system was functional so that customers could book for slots once more. Customers were permitted to book for their slots through a driving school.
There were designated centres for individuals and entities to conduct bulk renewals. It had been incorrect for the manager at that particular centre to state that it conducted only bulk renewals.
Referring to the allegation that there had only been one cashier at a Giyani testing centre, he said that in line with the directives issued by the Department of Employment and Labour – that at any given time, no more than 50% of the staff complement could be present in the workplace – the Department, together with the provinces and the municipalities, had implemented a rotational schedule, which would explain why there had been only one cashier at the time
Ms Mathevula clarified that the matter had occurred prior to the Covid-19 regulations.
Adv Makgatho thanked her for the clarification, and said that it was the duty of the centre manager to address instances of poor service delivery of officials. Through the MSDS, the Department was attempting to standardise the quality of services provided to citizens in the entire country.
It was true that most of the centres did not cater for the PWD, and this was another issue that the MSDS was looking to address. For this matter to be addressed, renovations should begin at all the centres. To fund these renovations, the Department had suggested that the revenue generated from municipalities should be used.
The Department would explore the idea of having officials who could communicate in sign language at testing centres.
All centres should have a hotline number for customers to lay complaints if they were not satisfied with the service. Customers should utilise this method only if they were still not satisfied after first having laid a complaint with the service manager.
All of these matters had been included in the SLAs that would be signed between the national Department and the provincial DoTs.
Referring to whether the comments should be submitted, he said that MSDS draft document already included the comments from relevant stakeholders.
The Department would be guided by the Committee on what process it decided to undertake.
The DoT had a website which was being managed and overseen by the RTMC, which provided customers various options on what they could book for. Recently the Department and the RTMC had received approval from the National Treasury to introduce further online services, and this would further digitise the current system.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for their responses to questions posed. The Committee would deliberate on the report.
He asked whether the Committee would adopt the report during the meeting, and whether it should invite public comment with regard to the MSDS.
Ms Ally said it would not be necessary to request comment on the regulations. She advised that the Bill should be voted on by each provincial representative. As these were regulations within the bill, it did not require Members to have mandates from their constituencies.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee agreed with the view posed.
Mr Dangor asked for clarity on whether they had to go to their constituencies to vote on the matter.
Ms Ally clarified Members did not require provincial mandates when considering the regulations.
The Chairperson asked if it was the first time they had dealt with such regulations. In addition, did all the regulations have to be submitted to Parliament?
Ms Ally said there were precedents with regard to the consideration of regulations, and the Committee’s legal advisors had looked into previous instances where regulations had been considered before it advised Members.
On their submission to Parliament, the Committee would have to be guided by the parent Act.
The Chairperson requested that the report be adopted during a sitting in the coming week.
The Committee considered and adopted its minutes of 2 June 2021
The Chairperson said the Committee had agreed that the advertisement for public participation on the Bill would be published in the newspapers.
Mr Rayi asked whether this would be advertised before the Committee was briefed. Usually Members were briefed by the relevant department on a Bill, and were then able to pose questions before the public was given the opportunity to provide comments.
The Chairperson clarified that the briefing would take place before the Bill was advertised. The advertisement would be placed in two newspapers that the Committee had used before.
Mr Rayi asked which section of the Bill would be put up for comment.
The Chairperson replied that it would be section 75 of the Bill.
Members would be informed on the various sites they would be visiting to conduct oversight work during the constituency period. They would be accompanied by their sister Committee.
Mr Rayi suggested that the Joint Management Committee (JMC) should sit and receive a briefing from the staff on 16 June. Subsequently, the JMC would brief the Select Committee on the matters discussed in the prior sitting.
The Chairperson agreed with the proposal.
The meeting was adjourned.
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