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TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
7 October 2004
DEPARTMENT ANNUAL REPORT AND FINANCIAL STATEMENTS: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
"Repositioning Transport as an Enabler of Economic Growth": Department Annual Report 2003/2004(offsite link)
Department PowerPoint presentation on Annual Report
The Department of Transport briefed the Committee on its Annual Report for 2003/2004, which dealt primarily with its recent milestones, Programme Four and Programme Three, the Oversight Report, the Audit Committee Report, and the annual financial statements. Members raised questions pertaining to fraudulent licences, inter-sphere relations, the Arrive Alive Campaign and the RTMC, the Household Travel Survey, the Railway Safety Regulator, the reconstruction of branch lines, and the Urban Transport Fund.
Department of Transport briefing
Ms W Stander (Director-General) discussed transport's recent milestones in great detail. Such milestones included: the national travel survey, the poverty alleviation project, the continuous investment in the provision of public transport services, the continuous investment in road infrastructure, the reduction of road fatalities, the revitalisation of rail lines, the creation of labour-intensive construction initiatives and Black Economic Empowerment strategies, and the restructuring of the Department and improvement of the staff working environment. She outlined Programme Four, "Towards Better Passenger Transport for All," and Programme Three, "Competitive Movement of Goods." She detailed the Oversight Report, which dealt with service delivery, employment and vacancies, foreign workers, skills development, and HIV/AIDS and health promotion programmes.
Mr A Pretorius (Chief Financial Officer) discussed the Department's Audit Committee Report, which detailed the activities and composition of the Audit Committee, the Audit Committee Charter, and the conclusions based on the period under review. He explained the annual financial statements for the year ended on 31 March 2004. These statements included the management report and approval, the report of the Auditor General, the statement of accounting policies and related matters, the appropriation statement and notes to the appropriation statement, the income statement, the balance sheet, the statement of changes in net assets/equity, the cash flow statement, and the notes and disclosure notes to the annual financial statements. An obituary of the late Minister A Omar was included and his passing noted.
Mr A Ainslie (ANC) asked for an explanation of the Department's relationship with other tiers of government. He questioned whether the national Department granted finances to municipalities as well as provinces. He asked if there was a mechanism that monitored the use of such funds. Ms Stander recognised the challenges inherent in coordinating the efforts of national, provincial, and local governments and stressed the need to clearly define the roles of each sphere. She noted that national roads were the responsibility of the Department of Transport, provincial roads were the responsibility of the provincial governments, district roads were the responsibility of local governments, and each was financed directly to meet their respective responsibilities. She mentioned that a National Treasury report provided the breakdown of government spending on roads. Mr Mokonyama (Department of Transport, Chief Director of Transport Planning) explained that conditional grants allowed the Department to determine how the money granted was used. Other grants went through the Urban Transport Fund and could only be used in metropolitan transport areas, which was one of the reasons the Fund would be closed down. He noted the Department was primarily concerned with policy and did little policy implementation. It was the Department's responsibility to formulate, co-ordinate, and monitor the implementation of policies. The Department only engaged in direct implementation in the case of pilot projects.
Mr Ainslie inquired who was planning the reconstruction of branch lines. Assuming municipalities were responsible for the planning, he questioned the extent to which the national Department was involved in the process. Ms Stander argued that the revitalisation of branch lines was an important means by which to link the country's "first and second economies." The National Treasury had been asked to support the Department in their efforts regarding branch lines. However, the Department did not plan to fund branch lines and would only become involved in relatively self-sufficient projects.
Mr Ainslie referred to the 2 000 driver's licences that had been fraudulently issued in Limpopo. He questioned how this had happened if 1.5 million licences had been issued in 2002 without incidence of fraud. Dr Watson noted the licences themselves were not fraudulent nor had they been fraudulently acquired. Rather, cases of fraud were related to mismanagement and operational problems, such as people lying about the information on the licences.
Mr S Farrow (DA) asked what was going to come out of the Household Travel Survey, as its findings undoubtedly impacted the bus, rail, and taxi recapitalisation programmes. Ms Stander stated that the Department was in the process of verifying the Household Travel Survey data with the provinces. The Department was not satisfied with the accuracy of the income data. The information gathered in the survey would be available in CD format, with a foreword by the Minister discussing the extent to which the data could be used. Academics had been contracted to analyse the meaning of the data.
Mr Farrow expressed concern over the continued uplifting of rail lines. He asked about accountability and the money generated from the uplifting.
Mr Farrow asked if the National Highway Patrol was ready for the holiday season, given that the RTMC would not be operational at that time. He stressed the importance of visible policing as a means of increasing road safety. Dr W Watson (Department of Transport, Chief Director of Land Transport) stated that the RTMC would be responsible for the same function as the National Highway Patrol in terms of co-ordinating road traffic enforcement. A contractor would co-ordinate road traffic over the holiday season since the RTMC would not be ready at that time. The National Highway Patrol would depend on the RTMC once it was operational.
Mr Farrow inquired whether the Committee would have the opportunity to review the Maritime Charter. Ms Stander said she would follow up on the Maritime Charter, although it was her understanding that it had been published for review.
Mr Farrow questioned the status of the Railway Safety Regulator, as the Board was not in place. Ms Stander noted there was a Board and a Chief Executive Officer. The Railway Safety Regulator had issued temporary safety permits to operators. Although there was still much to do, all of the institutional issues pertaining to the Railway Safety Regulator had been addressed. For instance, the Board needed to assume its role as a strategic oversight mechanism.
Mr Farrow asked how the three spheres of government reached consensus over the use and implementation of the Urban Transport Fund. Ms Stander noted the Fund had been established to fast track infrastructure development in urban areas. The Department was in discussion with the National Treasury to close down the Fund, at which point all further investments would be handled through the Department.
Ms N Mbombo (ANC) asked when taxis would receive their tenders for recapitalisation. Ms Stander said that the proposals had been evaluated and recommendations had been made. The recommendations were presented to the Minister and would now proceed to Cabinet. The National Treasury had already allocated money for the taxi recapitalisation process.
Ms Mbombo asked whether all buses had received new contracts or only those from specific companies. Ms Stander stated that some subsidies were given by the national government and others by the local authorities.
A Member questioned why the Arrive Alive Campaign only focused on the Christmas and Easter holidays. He felt it was important to include the months from May to November as well. Ms Stander stressed that most traffic fatalities did not occur in December, although it was the period that received the most media attention. Most traffic fatalities occurred when the weather changed in August and September. The Department felt it was best to use the additional media attention in December to highlight this particular challenge facing the country.
A Member inquired whether the Shova Kalula Bicycle Transport Programme was a one time event or an ongoing project. Ms Stander said that R10 million had been allocated to the Programme, which was an ongoing project operational in several provinces.
Mr Ainslie asked if the Department was on target to fully operationalise the RTMC next year.
Mr Farrow questioned how the CEO (or new incumbent) of the RTMC planned to get the support of the provinces. Dr Watson said there was no new incumbent in the RTMC. He reiterated that the consultant's services would only be used over the upcoming Christmas period. Ms Stander noted the Department wanted to build on the success that had been achieved the previous year and wanted to ensure that more provinces participated in Operation Juggernaut. She stressed the importance of working with different spheres of government and, in particular, involving local spheres of government in promoting enforcement.
Ms B Thomson (ANC) asked when Operation Juggernaut would be introduced into the remaining provinces. Dr Watson said that Operation Juggernaut would be rolled out on 1 November 2004. He stressed that traffic officers' working hours needed to be congruent with the times when most accidents occurred.
A Member questioned whether the Road Accident Fund had any role in the Arrive Alive Campaign. She also expressed concern about the implementation of the IDP. Ms Stander noted the Department was funded directly from the National Treasury for the Arrive Alive Campaign. Thus, the Road Accident Fund no longer provided the Department with the funding for the Campaign. Nevertheless, the Fund was still involved, as it had to approve of the Department's plans regarding the Arrive Alive Campaign.
The Chairperson stressed the need to resolve problems surrounding inter-sphere relations. He expressed concern that the Department defined its role as one of policy-making and not implementation. He pointed out the Department did engage in implementation when it was clear no one else would. He questioned whether it was the Constitution or the Department's infrastructure that was impeding the implementation of good public transport. Regardless, he argued that solely focusing on policy limited the Department's ability to influence policy. Thus, he hoped the Department would see itself as a co-ordinating mechanism driving implementation and, therefore, involving much more than just policy formation.
Ms Stander agreed and noted that the Department had previously assumed an instrumental role, delegating responsibilities to other organisations. Having discussed this with the Minister, it was agreed the Department should assume a catalytic role. It was clear that service delivery would not improve unless the Department began to work more closely with the different spheres of government. She argued for forcing integration of the different sectors to find the appropriate transport mix and expressed the need to streamline funding, planning, and many other issues. She noted the Department viewed the 2010 World Cup as a catalyst for investment in the public transport sector. She mentioned the Household Travel Survey highlighted the extent to which safety was of great concern for public transport users. For this reason, the Minister had suggested that a Chief Director be responsible for transport safety issues.
The meeting was adjourned.
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