Road Traffic Bills: briefing

NCOP Public Services

16 May 2000
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Meeting report

ROAD TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT CORPORATION AMENDMENT BILL; ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION OF ROAD TRAFFIC OFFENCES AMENDMENT BILL: BRIEFING

PUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
17 May 2000
ROAD TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT CORPORATION AMENDMENT BILL;
ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION OF ROAD TRAFFIC OFFENCES AMENDMENT BILL: BRIEFING

Documents handed out
Road Traffic Management Corporation Amendment Bill
Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill

SUMMARY
The Department of Transport briefed the Committee on these Section 76 Bills, after which the respective Provinces Legislatures will be briefed and will consider the Bills. A meeting to consider negotiating mandates on these will be held on 24 May 2000.

The amendments are made to principal Acts where a single Corporation was introduced to deal with matters concerning road traffic, especially infringements of the relevant laws. The Road Traffic Management Corporation will combine the powers of the three existing governing bodies to improve the deficient effectiveness of the Department. Amendments were made mainly to the required specifications for certain appointments in this body.

MINUTES
The Chairperson, Ms Majodina (ANC Eastern Cape), informed Members that they are to go to their respective Provincial Legislatures on 18 or 19 May 2000 and brief them on the amendments to the Bills. A negotiating mandate will then be held on Monday 24 May 2000 at 10:00 pm.

Road Traffic Management Corporation Amendment Bill
Background
Mr van Tonder from the National Department of Transport provided background information to the Committee on what had led to the Amendment Bill. In the first place the division between local and overhead authorities could potentially lead to confrontation. The second shortcoming was due to the lack of funds.

Mr van Tonder remarked that the inefficiency of road traffic management is evident in the high mortality rate on South African roads. The economic costs of accidents and offences reflects in the R700 million spent annually on infrastructural repairs and expenses of up to R13 billion on accidents.

The amendment aims to improve management by integrating the three levels of Transport Government and in this way to enhance their effective power. None of the three bodies will lose any power through the amendments. The Minister will chair the shareholders in the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC). The Corporation will maintain the status quo in service and will not have the authority to enforce law. The officers who will execute legislation will however now be bound by contract and if they fail to meet this, intervention by the RTMC is allowed to assist authorities in the necessary improvements.

The implementation of the RTMC is currently being attended to and the Corporation should be up and running by the end of April 2001. A draft was submitted to MINCOM and unanimously accepted. It was then submitted to the parliamentary process.

The funding problem was partly a result of the Departmental subsidization of services in the case of accidents. This subsidization will be ended and the public will be expected to pay the full costs of any voluntary or involuntary service provided to them when they are involved in road accidents. This will enhance efficiency in the Department when funds can be optimally used and the focus can be on service delivery.

The Department is considering contracting of the private sector to further enhance efficiency and are looking forward to becoming financially self sufficient.

Mr van Tonder went through the Bill with the Committee.

Questions
The Chair asked what was meant by the "shareholders" who will be chaired by the Minister in the RTMC.

Mr van Tonder explained that the term does not refer to shareholders as in a financial corporation, but to the representatives of the different provinces in a decision-making capacity.

Mr Mokoena (ANC Northern Province) mentioned that the principal Act provides for three branches of government and that it appears that the amendment removes enforcements to only one corporation.

Mr van Tonder reemphasised that the amendment will not affect previous arrangements made in the principal Act, except those regarding appointments.

Mr Maloyi (ANC North West) requested that the principal Act be made available to Members of the Committee, to which Mr van Tonder agreed.

Dr Nel (NNP Free State) wanted to know what progress MINCOM has made in steering the project. He asked if a Chief Executive Officer and Managers have been appointed, to which Mr van Tonder replied that the Act must first be implemented before any appointments can be made. Some preparational work for implementation must also be done by the National Department in developing a Traffic Law Enforcement Code and Standard Contract Agreements.

Mr Lever, from the DP, asked why the amendments to regulations on appointments had to made in the first place and whether some fixed minimum standard was not desirable.

Mr van Tonder explained that this issue was discussed at length at MINCOM and that it was found that such fixed specifications were restrictive to the relevant authorities. Shareholders are competent to decide on the necessary requirements for specific posts and it is thus unnecessary to include these in the Act. A fixed minimum standard is redundant since the shareholders' discretion should be reliable.

Mr Marais (ANC Free State) in addition reminded the Committee of a previous discussion where it was said that the specifications as they were originally determined, make affirmative action impossible. In this light it is therefore sufficient to trust shareholders to employ a fit and proper person for whatever position is at stake. Mr Maloyi agreed that the specialized committee is in the best position to code a standard for appointments.

In the final instance Dr Nel asked if it should not at least be stated that the appointment should be someone with South African citizenship. Mr van Tonder replied that this is in fact not an exclusive qualification.

Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill
Mr van Tonder briefed Members on the history of the principal Act and the status quo. In a 1989 survey it appeared that the success rate of the application of traffic rules was only 52%. Since then the figure has dropped to below 20% and in some areas below 10%. This evidence of bad law enforcement bred a disregard for law and order. Offenders know that prosecution is in most cases unsuccessful and accordingly there is no incentive to be law abiding.

Effective enforcement of law was previously the responsibility of the Department of Justice. Now the Department of Transport has founded its own Administrative System in dealing with offences, although any individual still has the right to appeal to a court of law.

Another problem arose from inconsequent fining, with incomparable differences between regions. This greatly frustrated road users. Offenders were also always treated as if any offence was their first offence, because their was no proper record of previous offences. Steps to improve this situation had already been introduced in the principal Act.

In the new system each road user will be registered on a system of points. Points will be allocated in relation to the seriousness of the offence to a maximum of twelve points, where after the licence of the offender will be withdrawn. The system includes rewards for good behaviour. After three months of no offences, the offender will lose one point. The process will be administered by the Chief Executive Officer of the Agency and the Board will be accountable to the Minister of Transport.

R30 million will be needed to implement the Act. The National Department of Transport will provide 50% of the costs for two years and each province will give a certain amount in addition. After two years the Corporation will be self sufficient.

Mr van Tonder went through the Bill with the Committee.

Questions
Mr Marais asked why it has taken so long for the Agency to be established, seeing that so many offenders escaped prosecution.

Mr van Tonder replied that the Act was in fact passed by Parliament in September 1998. A specific clause allowing authorities to borrow money for implementation in the capital market, was however removed from the Bill at a critical point and consequently there were not enough funds for implementation.

Mr Sulliman (ANC Northern Cape) expressed his concern at the way the Agency will be financed. He wanted to know what would happen if the Agency was not financially independent and sustainable after two years when Government will be withdrawing their 50% subsidy. He asked if the burden would then be on the Provinces.

Mr van Tonder answered in the negative and assured the Committee that any shortcoming in funds will be the responsibility of Parliament and will therefore be coming through the budget of the National Department. The provinces will not be accountable.

The Chair encouraged all Members to interact with their Provinces and play an active role in supporting and implementing the new Act.

Mr Maloyi complained that Members were not given enough time to prepare for the briefings with their respective provinces. It is preferable that Members internalise the amendments and send documentation to the Provinces in preparation for consultation and that there was not nearly enough time for this.

The Chair reminded him that this meeting had not been the first time that the Bills were looked at. However she said his concerns were generally valid and that she would attend to the matter.

The meeting was adjourned.

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