The Rural Road Asset Management System (RRAMS) Grant to improve rural road infrastructure is administered by the Department of Transport (DoT). The grant funds the collection of data on the condition and usage of rural roads.The Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant (PRMG) is a conditional and supplementary grant as provinces have their equitable share budget to do upgrades and maintenance and PRMG supplements the maintenance part.
In a virtual meeting, the DoT gave a briefing on the progress on allocation, administration of both grants by all provinces, presenting on the following:
• introduction of an app for citizens to report road defects such as potholes
• pothole repair project across the country implemented over a six-month period
• provincial expenditures
• recruitment of graduates as Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers
• engagement between stakeholders on infrastructure development
• inconsistent collection of road inventory data.
Committee members highlighted their concerns about the introduction of the app. Members felt apprehensive about the possibility of the app excluding rural communities who did not have access to data or that experienced lack of network connectivity. They also raised concerns about the poor construction and maintenance of roads; the slow implementation to convert gravel roads to paved roads; inadequate budget expenditure by a considerable number of provinces over the years; and that six months would not be an adequate to repair all potholes.
DoT assured the Committee that they would share the contact details of the provincial officials in charge of PRMG risk management so they could direct further queries to those officials.
Mr Makoto Matlala, DoT CFO, and his team provided an update on the key interventions and programmes for the repair and maintenance of the roads and general infrastructure across the country. They gave a breakdown of each individual province’s allocation and expenditure of grant funds and they gave a detailed analysis of the collection of data on the condition and usage of roads.
Interventions and Programmes
• Data collection framework
• Pothole repair app
• Six-month pothole repair programme
Road-Maintenance medium term solutions
• Proposal that private companies make donations towards the maintenance and upkeep of roads through their corporate social responsibility and claim that for BEE Scorecard and a tax deduction for such donation.
• Adopt-a-road programme – Individuals, organisation or businesses would help maintain sections of roads as volunteers or hire a maintenance service provider to perform the work on their behalf
• Some provinces are under resourced because they have not received the equitable share funding, so they solely rely on the grant not just as a supplementary funding but as funding to support all projects and maintenance initiatives
• Some provinces do not submit reports detailing their progress and use of funds
• Data collection is not consistent throughout all provinces except for a few districts
• Provinces were not using all the funds allocated in that specific year
• Capital costs incurred by provinces due to projects being put on hold for several reasons.
Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) asked if DoT takes into consideration population density when allocating budgets for infrastructure and road repairs. He made an example of Orange Farm which has more than a million people. With many people, is DoT looking to upgrade the R75 road to prevent congestion on the N1. Since the railway on has been stripped in that area people are using taxis more. Has DoT looked at shifting people from the N1 to the R75 which is a major road into Johannesburg and Tshwane?
Ms B Mathevula (EFF, Limpopo) asked for a more detailed breakdown of the municipality and district road figures as well as the number of recruited graduates according to province and gender. DoT mentioned the introduction of an app for South African citizens that would allow them to report road defects like potholes with the tap of a button. She pointed out that not everyone owns a smart phone or has access to data especially the South African rural population who continually experience network challenges. Considering this data and technological gap she asked if DoT has alternative methods for communication, specifically in rural areas.
Ms Mathevula noted that DoT would employ EPWP workers to patch potholes. She asked if it would be recruiting these workers for temporary or permanent employment. She drew attention to the road in Giyani between Ngove and Shikhumba which was constructed at a cost of R40 million. There was some controversy about the road on social media stirred by rumours that the construction of the road was done by way of using wheelbarrows. After driving on this road she realised that the road was not in a good condition and asked what oversight methods it deployed to ensure that after road construction, a road would be in a safe and good condition before citizens have access to the road. A contractor was employed to fix potholes on the Dingamazi-Ximange road but the potholes were not patched very well. There’s also a road from Ximange to Joko village which was not completed. She asked what programmes DoT had in place to follow up on roads that are not in good condition.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) was quite perturbed about the late submission of the presentation as the Committee had not received the document in advance. Usually Committee members receive presentations by Friday to work through the contents for the meeting the following week. The presentation was very detailed and technical.
Mr Rayi’s understanding of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) was that it was utilised for any infrastructure. Therefore, he was interested if a certain amount of the MIG would be specifically ringfenced for road construction and maintenance. He took the grant to be widely and broadly applied and thus applicable to construction and preservation of roads. He referred to slide 4 on the introduction of incentives that would be provided to municipalities if they collected and submitted data. He asked for more clarity on the effective function of these incentives.
On past performance of the grant, 63% was spent out of the total transferred to municipalities. Mr Rayi commented that when you see the conditions of the roads, 63% did not seem like an adequate reflection of the use of funds and it could not be considered an achievement considering that a significant amount remained unused.
Slide 15 says that the responsibilities of the municipalities include making provision to maintain the ramps after the life span of the grant. Mr Rayi requested DoT clarify the responsibilities of the municipalities pertaining to their usage of the grant. In addition, transferring officers should ensure that municipal road authorities conduct regular assessments on paved and unpaved roads. He wanted to know if transferring officers were in fact doing their job considering the prevalence of gravel roads in the rural areas. He asked DoT to explain where the link is between what Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) is doing with its Welisizwe programme which is responsible for constructing rural bridges. Is there any sharing of information between Welisizwe and DoT?
There’s another slide which speaks to the submission of completed quarterly reports thirty days after the quarter ends. Were the provinces meeting this target? Slide 20 refers to the Western Cape having spent 100% of its budget but the deviation column is showing R14 684 000. He requested that DoT make sense of that figure explaining where it comes from. There’s another slide that talks about the project stages, showing an amount of R990 000 on hold from the money that is allocated. What is meant by ‘on hold’?
DoT mentioned that there were no penalties for provinces that had not submitted information on maintenance and rehabilitation of roads such as the Eastern Cape. What were the reasons for provinces not being penalised for not submitting this information required of them. The national potholes repair programme would be initiated over a period of six months. Mr Rayi asked if six months would be an adequate amount of time to repair all the potholes in the country. Also, what would the repercussions be for provinces that refused to depart from their maintenance grant? Mr Rayi asked why some provinces are not compliant with the network verification status.
Adding to the Mr Rayi's point on the rural road asset management system in the slide depicting the municipalities that have complied with the network status, the Chairperson noted that only two districts have complied. He asked what the repercussions were and the means of support given to municipalities that had not complied with the task of submitting their data. This was important considering the data would be for the purpose of maintaining rural district roads and infrastructure. Secondly, he referred to the District Development Model and asked about the support given to the 44 district municipalities who are given more support in terms of the model.
The Chairperson referred to the deviation column on the slide about the PRMG grant allocation expenditure over nine years. He requested that DoT speak to the magnitude of the deviations and the interventions that DoT could bring to the table to ensure that the deviations are addressed.
On corporate social responsibility, the Chairperson asked DoT to expound on the extent to which they are interacting with the Infrastructure SA unit in the Presidency and the work done by Professor Ramakgopa to harness this window of opportunity within the private sector. He also asked if the six-month target would be enough to close all the potholes across the country
Mr Msondezi Futshane, Acting Deputy Director-General: Road Transport, replied that one of the most interesting points about the recruitment of graduates per municipality district was that the public and private sectors were recruiting graduates directly from schools. He assured the Committee that he would provide the recent list as per 30 June 2022 containing the breakdown of graduate figures.
The MIG administered by COGTA funds infrastructure including roads, water, refuse and sports fields. Much of the grant is directed towards funding water. Funding of roads is around 23% shared between refuse, sports fields and other infrastructure related activity. It’s important to note that the MIG funds construction and not maintenance. Further the Road Management Asset data being collected assisted the municipalities to plan better where it concerns roads. When DoT started, they did not have data on the roads, there was about 4% of data that covered the whole country, so not much. But now municipalities can do their technical reports, business plans and prioritise which roads must be built in that particular year using the data that has been collected.
DoT introduces incentives by persuading districts to do their planning because once it has been done,they will be able to influence the strategy of the municipalities. Another incentive for planning is that if the district is planned properly, they will be able to preserve their network. Essentially, these incentives are for the purpose of encouraging the districts and even municipalities to plan and collect data consistently. This would be what DoT is referring to when it speaks of incentives.
On the 63% spent from the budget, Mr Futshane replied that funding is there but municipalities do not spend the budget fully due to problems such as delayed procurement and delays in spending in that particular financial year. We find that most municipalities apply for rollovers, but they do not necessarily get approval.
Mr Futshane explained about the responsibilities and building capacity at local level that DoT ensures that municipalities understand they own the roads and therefore must ensure they take responsibility in managing their asset. It should not be the DoT in future years. DoT encourages the municipalities to build their capacity so they can manage this function.
Mr Futshane replied that the Welisizwe programme is under DPWI. DoT had an engagement with Infrastructure South Africa on the two programmes. The Welisizwe programme is a work in progress and there are several bridges by Welisizwe. The progress cannot be shared yet until the reports are issued. The reports are required monthly along with an annual evaluation. The reports are also sent to National Treasury.
On data collection, data is collected and shared across municipalities. The challenge is the compatibility to load it onto the SANRAL Integrated Transport Information System (ITIS) database system. Not all local authorities have the latest version so there will be a workshop to train local authorities to update their systems with the latest version.
On population density, Mr Whity Maphakela DoT Director: Road Infrastructure & Industry Development noted the R75 upgrades to try and relieve the pressure on the national roads specifically the N1. Population density is considered. The formula being used to allocate funds to various provinces looks at geography, extent of network, fuel, kilometres as well as population density. All these are taken into consideration. DoT wants to relieve the congestion on roads so the population has to be considered to accomplish this. However it does depend on the province's prioritisation. National might prioritise the density factor but provincial may not see it as a topical issue to regard.
On unequal access to the app, Mr Maphakela replied that there are alternatives for people who do not have the technology to report potholes. They can report potholes to their nearest traffic department or provincial department of transport.
Mr Maphakela explained about EPWP work and permanent employment that the issue goes back to what Cabinet approved some time back looking at the unemployment numbers and inequality. The decision was taken that departments need to create full time equivalent jobs, not permanent jobs. This was to ensure government prioritises access to jobs and not necessarily permanence at this stage.
On the R40 million Ngobe-Xikumba road construction, the country has three spheres of government – provincial, municipal and national roads – with their own independence in terms of sections four and five of the Constitution. The role of DoT is to supplement what municipalities and provinces are currently doing and to provide a monitoring role to ensure that targets that have been set are achieved. So, when it comes to who gets appointed to do the work, DoT does not have a say in that. DoT issues a set of standards to ensure that whatever project is in line with the standards. Once a road has been approved there is a team of clusters who monitor on-site projects, allocations and expenditure and conduct assessments on the road construction in terms of value for money and community impact. Money is put on hold until a province conducts and submits reports so there are repercussions should provinces not submit information about their performance and progress.
DoT launched the pothole patching programme on the 8 August and the project will take 6 months to assist provinces to repair potholes. A pothole is a symptom of poor preventative maintenance. DoT must prioritise strengthening preventative maintenance measures. The pothole repair project is just a temporary initiative. When provinces submit their annual performance plan – the pothole patching is one of the indicators they must submit so they are monitored.
Ms Tsakani Mashimbye, DoT Senior Manager: Roads Finance, filled in the gaps where certain responses were not given. On the question of where the R14 million comes from, all provinces are required to report their expenditure for all projects on the Infrastructure Reporting Model (IRM) hosted by National Treasury. This is a requirement for all infrastructure departments nationwide. At the beginning of the financial year the provinces capture all the allocations. In cases where the Committee see figures highlighted in red on the report in the deviation column on the slide, those red figures represent the amount unable to be spent by provinces. The red figures contributed to the 5.82% that has been underspent. The R14 million by the Western Cape that is being queried most probably comes from the province's equitable share. It does so happen that certain projects cannot be split in terms of their source of funding and in their capturing because its either too cumbersome or the province is struggling in reflecting it especially with core-funded projects. So once the province exceeds 100% of the budget, it deploys other funds. The other funds come from the equitable share budget. The R14 million in black illustrates that the province had other funds other than the PRMG. The PRMG grant is a conditional grant that is supplementary. The idea is that provinces have the equitable share budget to do upgrades and the necessary maintenance and the PRMG just comes in to supplement the maintenance part.
The deviation column does not mean that there is something excessively wrong that provinces did. It just shows the differences in spending. Looking at the slide that reflects more red than black figures simply shows us that there was more underexpenditure in provinces than a case of provinces exceeding their budgets. Most provinces do request roll-overs which are approved and DoT just flags this to indicate that provinces should spend it in the year it is allocated.
On the projects that were on hold – this speaks to capital costs that provinces incur due to stopping projects during their implementation for several reasons. These reasons include communities hijacking sites due to the 30% sub-contracting issue that most contractors are struggling with in communities. Or sometimes, provinces have litigation cases that they are dealing with which means that certain projects must be put on hold until the matter is settled in court. At the end of the year DoT does sit with each province and engages them on how they spent their PRMG funds.
The Chairperson thanked the CFO and his team for the engagement.
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