The Department of Tourism made a presentation to the Committee that focused on infrastructure projects being developed, maintenance of existing facilities as well as enhancing universal access. Some projects were being implemented by agencies, in particular Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA). The Department had appointed the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC) to analyse its projects and the report observed that some of the projects were unsustainable as viability studies and environmental assessments had not been done and some had land ownership challenges and were thus discontinued. Currently, DoT was implementing 119 projects with 38 being community projects, 77 maintenance and three were for enhancing universal access. The Department had taken note of the lessons from the GTAC review and it was addressing those challenges. Most of the projects were implemented through the Expanded Public Works Programme, others as part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Plan as well as others funded by donors, in particular the European Union.
Members asked for criteria used in selection of projects, budgets for each projects and if tourists came once the projects were completed. Members were concerned about consequence management for misappropriated funds to do with discontinued or delayed projects. Members also asked if projects were linked to a municipality's Integrated Development Plan and the District Development Model.
The Department responded that due diligence, feasibility studies and environmental impact assessments were done before any project starts. The GTAC review of projects observed that lack of built environment professionals was the main cause of challenges in planning, design and implementation. The Department was now using DBSA as an implementing agency and skills were being transferred to DoT to avoid recurrence of mistakes. Maintenance of parks was done mainly by SANParks and this was agreed on with social partners at the Job Summit. Provinces were given their equitable share and provinces themselves decide which projects needed funding the most and where they needed support to increase tourist visitation numbers. DoT was concerned about the implications of the ConCourt judgment on preferential procurement regulations. National Treasury had instructed all government entities to relook at all projects advertised after 16 February and consider them invalidated. This has significant implications for what the Department had planned.
The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister. The focus was on infrastructure projects by the Department of Tourism as well as discontinued projects following advice from the Government Technical Advisory Centre.
Tourism Infrastructure Projects (including those discontinued)
Deputy Minister of Tourism, Mr Amos Fish Mahlaelela, introduced his team, saying this was a progress report on ongoing and discontinued infrastructure projects under its remit. Some of the projects were legacy in that they were historical projects when the Department was still conjoined with Environmental Affairs dating back as far as 2012. The presentation focused on projects being developed, maintenance of existing facilities as well as enhancing universal access. Some projects were implemented by agencies, in particular DBSA. The Department had appointed GTAC to analyse its projects and the report observed that some of the projects were unsustainable as no viability studies were undertaken, no environmental assessments and some had issues with land ownership. Currently, the Department was implementing 119 projects. The Department had taken note of the lessons from the GTAC review and it was addressing those challenges. Due diligence and feasibility studies were to be done and no challenges were expected in new projects. Most of the projects were implemented through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), others as part of the Presidential Stimulus Plan as well as other funded by donors, in particular the European Union. On discontinued projects, some of them did not have environmental assessments, others were vandalized while some after completion were deemed to be unsuitable for tourism and were handed over to municipalities. Most of the projects were community projects as well as maintenance and refurbishment of national parks. The Department was also involved in tourism destination enhancement initiatives in projects owned by SANParks and provincial parks.
Ms Shamilla Chettiar, DoT Deputy Director General: Destination Development, presented on the 119 infrastructure projects – 38 were community projects, 77 maintenance and three were for enhancing universal access. DoT funds a number of tourism infrastructure projects that range from developing new facilities, maintenance and upgrading of existing facilities and implementation of universally accessible enhancements:
• Community Based Tourism Projects – the bulk of which were the development or upgrading of accommodation facilities.
• Maintenance of National Parks or Provincial Tourism Assets – this work involves maintenance, beautification and enhancement e.g. rehabilitation of terrain, landscaping, paving, painting, fencing, electrical.
• Destination Enhancement initiatives – these include new developments, the upgrading of facilities or the implementation of universal accessibility initiatives.
Ms Chettiar went on to detail the projects in each of the nine provinces.
See document for details
Mr P De Frietas (DA) asked for the criteria used by DoT to determine selection of projects. More so, he asked for the mechanisms put in place to ensure projects were done on time, to incorporate lessons learnt. To him, it seemed there was no monitoring and evaluation of projects.
Ms H Winkler (DA) asked for the amount and criteria used to determine budgets for projects. She asked if there was consequence management for officials for incomplete and delayed projects. The distribution of projects was skewed towards Limpopo with a few projects in Gauteng. She asked the meaning of the terms: expansion, development and improvement. What was the amount of money lost to incomplete or delayed projects? Progress was asked on investigations into financial misappropriation as well as improvements since using DBSA on implementing projects.
The Chairperson asked if the community projects were linked to a municipality's Integrated Development Plan and the District Development Model to ensure community buy-in and avoid those projects becoming white elephants. The Chair asked for plans in place to mitigate budget overruns due to delays in implementation.
Ms S Xego (ANC) said DoT must not be penalized for legacy projects. She thanked the Deputy Minister for his excellent summary and overview of projects currently in place. The Committee will closely monitor existing projects. DoT must also relook at their business plans to ensure good project planning. In particular when projects were advertised, there must be a window period for applications to ensure the demographic variables of the community are reflected. DoT must learn from mistakes of the past as well as good practices. DoT must extend an invitation to the Committee when they launch and handover projects.
Ms Chettiar responded that DoT had come a long way. In the past, there were challenges with project management as well as contracts. GTAC concluded that lack of built environment professionals was the main cause for poor planning, design and implementation. DBSA is trying to ensure the early start of projects and that DoT gets value for money. DBSA was also transferring skills to DoT to avoid recurrence of mistakes.
Ms Chettiar replied that different projects have different qualifying criteria as well as budgets. Some projects are done as part of social responsibility. Maintenance of parks was done mainly by SANParks and this was agreed with social partners at the Job Summit. To provinces, an equitable share was given and provinces themselves decide which projects needed money most and needed support to increase visitation numbers. On abandoned projects, some were damaged by veldfires while some were vandalized – it happened when security was present. Municipal officials were brought into the planning phases of projects.
Mr Victor Tharage, DoT Director General, said the focus has been on huge densification of cultural, heritage and nature projects. Around 2018/19, DoT reported to the Committee on fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Once the Auditor General observes fruitless and wasteful expenditure, the accounting officer institutes a forensic investigation. If wrongdoing has been noted, cases were reported to the police or DPCI or the Office of the State Attorney. However, nobody has appeared in court for all cases reported.
DoT will extend an invitation to the Committee for all future events. DoT was trying to turn infrastructure projects around, improving quality of planning and DBSA had been helpful in this. There were monthly steering meetings with DBSA to go through the details of projects.
DoT was concerned about the implications of the ConCourt judgment on the Preferential Procurement regulations. The Director General of National Treasury instructed all government entities to hold in abeyance all procurement advertised after 16 February 2022 until the Constitutional Court had provided guidance. This has significant implications on what DoT had planned. Currently, the focus was to ensure that current and future projects were done to perfection. DoT was focusing on improving capacity. Ms Chettiar is doing her PhD in this area of work. The Committee was encouraged to visit national parks to see the excellent work being done by DoT and just as visitors to enjoy.
Deputy Minister Mahlalela added that projects overruns were mainly caused by acts of nature not only incompetence. Rain usually caused a lot of damage; sometimes there were labour disputes. The Annual Performance Plan will reflect the various projects in the new financial year. He asked Members to visit these projects in their constituencies which have changed villages and communities.
Mr P De Frietas (DA) asked if consequence management is factored in when contracts are signed. More so, was research done to ensure tourists will come to these projects on completion?
Mr Tharage responded that all contracts have consequence management. However, somewhere in implantation, an official or the contractor many act in bad faith leading to loss of money. This demands an investigation and on conclusion, the police or state attorney is briefed. Feasibility studies were done all projects.
The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister and his team. The Committee will from time to time invite DoT to present on the mentioned projects. DoT was excused.
Committee Report on DoT Quarter 1 and 2 Performance Report of 2021/22
The Committee adopted the Report: Committee Report on Tourism Quarter 1 & 2 Performance for 2021/22.
The Committee Secretary noted that there will be a Multiparty Women Caucus on 31 March when the Committee was scheduled to have an oversight visit in Limpopo for the whole week. It was therefore suggested that Members use Monday as a travelling day, do the oversight on Tuesday and Wednesday and return Wednesday night to their provinces.
The Committee agreed.
Mr De Frietas noted the Committee strategic planning session on 27 March and said it was important to do it face to face and this was agreed to.
The Chairperson said this must be proposed to the House Chairperson. The Committee Secretary must start looking for a venue in proximity to Parliament for the strategic session
The Committee adopted the minutes of the previous meeting.
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