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TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
23 May 2006
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT STRATEGIC PLAN 2006/07 TO 2008/09: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr J Cronin (ANC)
Documents handed out:
TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
Department of Transport Strategic Plan 2006/07 to 2008/09
The Department briefed the Committee on its strategic plans over the next three financial years. The presentation focused Members’ attention on the different programmes’ achievable objectives for the next 12 months. Members were particularly concerned about the impact the taxi recapitulation programme would have if it were not managed appropriately. There was also much interest in the transfer of 3000kms of provincial roads and in the Department’s preparations for the transport needs during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Department of Transport Briefing
The Department of Transport (DOT) submitted a substantial report detailing its strategic plan for 2006/07 to 2008/09. The Director General, Ms Mpumi Mpofu, presented a brief overview of the Department’s new organisational structure, key policy developments and the strategic plans of its seven programmes (administration/management services; transport policy, research and economic analysis; transport regulation and accident and incident investigation; integrated planning and inter-sphere co-ordination; public transport; transport logistics and corridor development; and public entity oversight and economic regulation). She identified access, safety, security and consumer choice as the biggest challenges facing the Department’s delivery environment.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would use the presentation as a checklist when assessing the Department’s progress.
Mr S Farrow (DA) wondered whether all vacancies in the organogram have been filled. He was concerned about whether the Department would be able to meet the targets set out in their strategic plan if it was not running on full capacity.
Mr Makokoane (DOT: Chief Operations Officer) responded that the new structure of the Department had just been approved. Positions would be advertised from the coming weekend. In order to ensure delivery of services the Department would shorten the recruitment cycle to 2 months.
Mr Farrow asked what Ms Mpofu meant when she said that the DOT would integrate with the Gautrain project. To his knowledge the Gautrain would be a stand-alone project.
Ms Mpofu said that the Department would do extensive work with the Gautrain team regarding bus and taxi feeding systems. She stressed that there would be no integration with the Gautrain project itself, but that the Department would service its end stops. There was also talk of an integrated ticketing system that would serve across transport modes. Recognising the difficulties around access gates, she said that the gate policy discussion would inform future policy decisions.
Mr Farrow wondered what the DOT was doing to ensure that there would be funding for the maintenance of the 3000kms of provincial roads still to be incorporated into national roads.
Mr S Macozoma (DOT Chief Director: Planning) reminded the Committee that the roads mentioned were among some of the most neglected roads in the country. The national Department would be in a better position to improve them. The agency would use a three fold approach in ensuring it would be able to fund the project. Firstly the baseline allocation for the next two years would triple from R1.2 billion to R3. 6 billion. Secondly the Department would consider mobilizing funding from the markets. Thirdly it would explore ways of accessing public funding via Public Private Partnerships.
Mr O Mogale (ANC) said that the N12 through the North West province took many lives in road accidents and wondered whether it was part of the 3000 km that would be transferred.
Mr Macozoma informed Members that the Horizon 2010 strategic plan gave details regarding the roads that formed part of the transfer. Roads that had been earmarked would not necessarily be transferred. One of the main considerations was that the transfers should be by consensus. Provincial Premiers had to give their approval and thus the process included much negotiation. He agreed that the N12 was very dangerous and had already been transferred.
Mr Farrow queried whether the reported 18,1% increase in growth included the R9, 1 billion from the Road Accident Fund (RAF) and the Gautrain Projects.
Mr D Pretorius (DOT Chief Financial Officer) explained that the 18,1% referred to the percentage by which the budget would grow over the Medium-term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period. The RAF once off payment of R2, 7 billion and the Gautrain increases were not included.
Mr M Moss (ANC) sought clarity on what "non-motorised transport" referred to.
Mr M Mokonyama (DOT Acting Deputy Director General: Planning) explained that ‘non motorised transport’ referred to any mode of transport that did not make use of an engine – walking, cycling, animal-drawn carts.
Mr Moss said that the Committee was inundated with issues related to disabled persons and transport especially with regards to the taxi recapitalisation programme. He pointed out that 8-10% of South Africans were disabled. While there was an increase in disabled people making use of transport, public transport still remained inaccessible. He also wondered how many disabled people worked in the Department.
Mr Makokoane admitted that the Department could do better on their employment of disabled persons. There were five disabled people within the Department, one of which was in a management position. This issue would be reviewed and better pursued as the Department filled the vacancies in its new organizational structure.
Ms N Msomi (DOT Deputy Director General: Transport Regulation and Public Entity Oversight) said that the Department recognized its obligations in terms of the legislation and the Constitution. The performance agreements and shareholder contracts of agencies set clear targets in terms of provisions for people with disabilities as far as infrastructure (accessibility of facilities) and employment were concerned. Some trains provided access and a certain number of the new fleet of taxis would be designated for people with disabilities. Providing for the needs of disabled people cost a little more but the Department would find a way of funding the additional costs that would ensure that all people had access to transport services.
The Chairperson commented that very often the transport challenges disabled people faced related less to a user-friendly vehicle and more to the infrastructure that made access to these vehicles possible.
A Member wondered why the Department did not take direct action as far as the employment of disabled people were concerned. The Department only employed disabled people at lower level positions.
Ms Msomi explained that the agencies through which the Department delivered its services were its biggest arm for delivery. They received most of the resources and were able to do more. She assured the Member that the Department employed disabled people anywhere within the organizational structure, provided they applied for positions.
Mr Mogale said the security programme had been piloted in Cape Town but trains were still being torched. He wondered whether this programme would be "a pilot for life" or whether at some stage it would be fully functional and rolled out to the rest of the country.
Ms Mpofu assured the Committee that the Department had no intention of limiting the scope of the project and that it was moving away from the pilot stage. The Department was in discussion with the South African Police Service (SAPS) about proceeding with the project in Gauteng and Durban. In the realization of its security service the Department would give priority to the SAPS programme as a new mechanism for security. In Johannesburg and Durban the programmes would be largely SAPS led.
Mr Mogale asked when the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) document that had been returned by Cabinet would be finalised.
Ms Mpofu explained that the Department had been partly responsible for creating unease around the Charter and submitted one integrated Transport Charter and 7 sub-charters. She said that a re-exploration of the Charters in general would be necessary especially since there could potentially be a proliferation of Charters. The issue should be resolved by July.
Mr Mogale requested an explanation on how the Department would go about the programme to scrap 10 000 old taxis.
Ms Mpofu said that an announcement regarding the recapitalisation programme would be made following the meeting between the MECs and Ministers the following day. The Department projected that between June and December it would increase the scrapping of vehicles per month. The scrapping agency would prepare tenders to established scrapping sites that would administer the process.
Mr B Mashile (ANC) observed that there was still much to be done as far as the recapitalisation programme was concerned. He predicted that there would be many teething problems and wondered whether the Committee should not perhaps meet with the Deputy Director General of the directorate that dealt with this matter.
He was concerned about the fact that the Department had maintained that the subsidy scheme would become operational; yet now there was talk of first doing a study of the scheme. He doubted whether taxi operators would think it feasible to scrap a vehicle when the subsidy was still in the balance.
The Chairperson said that he too was very concerned about the taxi recapitalisation programme. With 64% of South Africans making use of taxis, the taxi industry formed the backbone of the commuter system. He was worried that the R50 000 incentive offered in return for scrapping an old vehicle would not convince taxi owners to scrap their vehicles. He was not convinced that the programme would assist the many people who wanted to exist the industry. He doubted whether many people were considering an exit, as the Department suggested. He reminded them that for many driving a taxi was a survivalist activity. He also pointed out that taking part in the programme and then "falling in the SA Revenue Services (SARS) net" might be a further discouragement. He acknowledged that the programme was well – intentioned but cautioned that it might cause "an explosion in an explosive sector".
He envisaged a taxi industry that regarded itself as part of the bus industry. This integration was slow and dependant upon metros and cities’ transport plans. BEE offered an opportunity of leverage into the commuter system and to change its racial profile. Much work would have to be done around taxi routes.
He commented that the taxi recapitalisation programme would be a wonderful development for the public but feared that it was "out of joint" with other initiatives. He feared that the programme might meet with "massive resistance".
Ms Mpofu said that the Department was also concerned about the taxi-recapitalisation programme but was "starting to see the light". She expected that after the MinMec the following day everyone would have a clear understanding of the scope of the operation. The Department had a clear vision of the short-term goals and the long-term affordability of the programme would not pose problems.
She explained that the project was designed over a 7-year period. During the first phase of the project taxis that were in a very bad condition would be scrapped and owners would be offered a R50 000 incentive that would assist them in buying new vehicles. The Department was nearing the launch of the new vehicles of which some were already available on the market.
She emphasised that only those taxis that were not roadworthy would be scrapped and that all old taxis would be replaced within the 7-year period and agreed that conversion might pose problems.
The Department felt that the objectives that could be achieved through the regulation of the industry were most important. She said that the conversion of the smaller vehicles posed a bigger challenge that that of the bigger ones.
Taxi operators would be targeted first as far as road traffic management was concerned. She mentioned that bus and taxi lanes were present in some areas but were not used effectively.
She pointed out that many taxi owners were aware that they could make use of bus subsidies. The Department wanted to promote this practice. She agreed that immediate action needed to be taken to transform the bus industry.
Mr Mashile commented that the Department appeared to be struggling to get the regulations of the RAF finalised.
Ms Msomi agreed that the RAF regulations should have been released by now. She explained that arriving at acceptable legislation had taken some time. There had been extensive consultation between the RAF and the Department and the medical and legal practitioners involved also posed many challenges.
Mr Mashile wondered what progress the Department had made as far as implementing the recommendations made by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) were concerned.
Ms Msomi informed the Committee that the SIU provided Minister of Transport, Jeff Radebe, with quarterly reports. The Minister took these recommendations to the MinMec for further discussion. She emphasised that the issues raised by the SUI were serious and that fraud and corruption would be dealt with. The fraudulent activities at licensing stations would be investigated and licensing would be strengthened.
Mr Mashile was curious as to whether the Department had a concept for addressing the transport needs during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Mr Mokonyama informed the Committee that the Transport Action Agenda had been finalised and that it captured the Department’s response to 2010 challenges. The initial travel-demand projections had been made. R241 million had already been allocated to host municipalities with a further R700 million to be allocated in 2006/07. The Chairperson said that the Committee would be very interested in any further developments.
A Member wondered whether the Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) was meeting its objectives. Ms Msomi responded that the rail regulator provided a passenger and a freight service and had a different mandate to that of the safety regulator. The Department had to consider how to make the rail service more sustainable, how to subsidise it and how to make it more accessible. The Safety regulator was concerned with ensuring the safety of the infrastructure. She admitted that there were synergies between the two regulators, but that they could not be successfully dealt with together.
She said that there had been a reasonable improvement as far as the rail safety regulator meeting its objectives was concerned. A chief executive would be appointed soon and the permit system had recently been finalised. The investigative capacity was beefed up after the recent derailments and the Department was hoping that this would result in an improvement as far as investigations were concerned.
Mr M Swathe (DA) wondered when the Transport Consultative Forum would be established. He asked who would serve on it and whether it would have offices across the country or only nationally.
Mr S Zamxaka (Parliamentary Liaison Officer) explained that the forum’s main focus would be in consultation and would initially have only a national office. Some provinces already had such initiatives in place at their municipalities and the Department had found that engagement at this level was most lucrative. He pointed out that those issues, which were common among provinces could be discussed at national level. The Forum should be in operation within the next 12 months.
The Chairperson commented that the MinMec should emphasise that metros and municipalities should implement initiatives and that national departments were there to facilitate the implementation. He supported the thinking behind the formation of a consultative forum.
Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) felt that the Committee needed a way of measuring the progress as far as the integrated development programme (IDP) was concerned.
The Chairperson advised that the Committee should find this measure of progress themselves.
Ms N Khunou (ANC) commented that ill-informed perceptions would persist unless the Committee received accurate information. She was particularly concerned about the safety of taxi passengers as well as to what would become of drivers who had to scrap their vehicles and could not afford to buy new ones.
Mr Farrow commented that the Committee would need specialists to inform them on these matters. They would also need more information on the preparations for the World Cup as well as on the Dube Trade Port and the conflicts with the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA).
The Chairperson assured the Department that it would have the Committee’s support should it want to gear more funds towards its road safety campaign. He emphasised that the taxi industry and the Department would be pivotal in the recapitalisation process. The Department should ensure that the leadership within the taxi associations should ensure that all their members knew what came from negotiations with the Department.
He concluded that the Committee was satisfied that the Department had based its short-term achievable objectives on realistic organisational capacity. The Committee would compile its report after the budget debate, as this would give them a greater understanding of all views.
The meeting was adjourned.
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