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PUBLIC WORKS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
29 August 2001
PROVINCIAL REPORTS: DISCUSSION
Chairperson: Mr M Hlengwa
Documents handed out:
Draft Provincial Reports
The Public Works Portfolio Committee had embarked on a study tour visiting each province and observing progress on the various projects funded by the Department. The overall concerns and highlights of the provincial tours were raised in the meeting.
Mr M Hlengwa (IFP), the Chairperson of the Committee informed the Committee that reports had currently been received from Gauteng, the Northern Province, the North West, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape.
Reports from the Free State, the Northern and the Western Cape were not yet finalised as the people concerned in the provinces were still in the process of drafting them. The Chair said that people still drafting the outstanding reports should be notified of the urgency with which the whole matter should be handled.
Mr Hlengwa noted that as part of the delegations who had visited the provinces, he had successful visits to Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. He proceeded to ask the members of the committee to report back on observations made during the visits to the provinces.
Mr B Radebe (ANC) commented on the fact that the organisation by the various provinces to welcome them during the visits was very good. He went on to note that all Provincial MECs or their representatives were there to welcome the delegations.
Mr Radebe noted that they had started in the Northern Province were they had met the MEC for Transport in the wake of the floods which devastated the province last year to see what progress had been made in repairing infrastructure like roads and bridges. He stated that all the money allocated for this purpose had been spent and that the quality of the work done was generally good.
He noted that the money given to the province for this purpose was, however, not enough for the process and felt that there needed to be closer co-operation between the Committee and the provinces.
A worrying factor here though was that a lot of the projects for rehabilitation of infrastructure had been awarded to one company, Concor, citing a figure of around R53 million in total.
Mr Radebe informed the Committee that in this province they found that the provincial government has limited financial support from the national Department.
This withstanding, it was however pleasing to find that the province has an asset management registering system and their projection system for building projects is light years ahead of the other provinces. He highlighted the issue of future projections where he noted that these could be carried out for building projects and other related projects for periods of up to ten years in advance.
He continued that these positive aspects regarding knowledge and expertise should be shared with the other provinces so that the systems could be improved overall and not just in the more advanced provinces. Another important observation was that the communities in and around Gauteng were more involved in the projects as compared to other areas.
Ms P Sekgobela (ANC) in her report on the visit to the North West province, noted that one major problem was that 'fronting' was very prevalent in the province. Emerging contractors (previously disadvantaged) are being used by established groups as affirmative action strategies. Another problem was the widespread use of foreigners as a source of cheap labour instead of locals. She also noted that there is a problem of unwillingness to shoulder responsibility on any problematic issue in the province on the side of departmental officials. This was generally for matters for which the officials were, as part of their job descriptions, accountable.
Mr Hlengwa noted that they were not able to access the premises of one of the projects in the province due to internal problems between project workers and management. They also encountered problems where the people responsible for some of the projects were not very knowledgeable about them. They were asking more questions about the projects than the delegation.
Ms Shilubana (ANC), also part of the delegation, added that the tender prices for some of the projects were very high as in the case of Lowley Primary School.
She noted that there was a lack of quality in building work in this school. An instance was the cracking foundations the delegation observed when inspecting the new classrooms, which are being built for the school. The corrugated iron was also of a very poor quality according to Ms Shilubana. She observed that it would seem contractors were more concerned with finishing their projects on time and at low cost rather than ensuring good quality work.
Ms Shilubana found the fact that about R2.5 million had been allocated for only 10 classrooms rather questionable. She felt that more classrooms could have been constructed given the amount allocated.
She was also concerned about the general lack of women involvement in the building projects around the province. She informed the committee that one tender had been awarded to a woman and that there was only one female trainee engineer in the various projects in the province. She felt that women need to be given more opportunities in these projects.
Mr Radebe noted that on completion of their visit to the North West, they went to a very impressive project of beehives and market stores. Here, he notes that there was a great deal of involvement but this apparently was because of the fact that the project belonged to the women.
Ms Shilubana also informed the committee of the impressive way in which the district council in the Mabopane area in the North West is working with the provincial Department of Public Works.
Mr Radebe spoke of the problematic situation they had encountered in Pietersburg in the Northern Province. This involved the maintenance of the road from the Gateway International Airport to the city centre. The problem here was that there was a clash of responsibilities between the Department of Transport, Defence and Public Works as to who should maintain the road. The problem was that the Department of Defence still exercised some jurisdiction over the roads and other infrastructure in and around the airport as it had been a former military airbase. This posed a problem for the provincial Department of Transport, which has made funds available for the rehabilitation of the project but could not go ahead because of this situation.
A worrying fact according to Mr Radebe is that this situation is going on despite the fact that the road is very busy as is used by tourists when they arrive or leave Pietersburg by plane. He suggested that this issue should be addressed through formal written communication from the Portfolio Committee to the national Department of Public Works requesting intervention to ensure a speedy resolution of the situation and the rehabilitation of the road.
Mr Radebe referred to the case of two hospitals in Gauteng, the Chris Hani Baragwanath and the Pretoria Academic Hospitals. The state of the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is very poor at the moment, despite the fact that it serves more people than it can accommodate.
Its current survival was largely through help from the University of the Witwatersrand through academic expertise and professional assistance. The university was however threatening to withdraw due to frustrations regarding the infrastructure with which they have to perform their duties. For example, the maintenance of the wards was very poor. The nursing sisters have to embark on fundraising campaigns to get funding for maintenance and for new equipment from private institutions.
On the other hand, the Pretoria Academic Hospital is well funded and has proper infrastructure yet has fewer patients to serve. Mr Radebe found this contradiction not justifiable and felt that the situation needed attention from the various stakeholders involved, including the Department of Public Works.
Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) commented on the issue of awarding contracts where he noted that the issue of awarding of multiple project contacts as in the Concor case in the Northern Province need to be urgently addressed.
He also noted that the emerging contractors should be given support to run their projects more successfully and the Department should look at ways of addressing this problem.
Mr Moonsamy went on to say the quality of work done should be closely checked as the project is in progress and any faults where appropriate should be the responsibility of the contractor. He pointed out that the inflation of figures during the submission of tenders should be closely analysed and the involvement of women in the projects, as Ms Shilubana had earlier noted, should be encouraged.
Another issue, which needs serious consideration according to Mr Moonsamy, is the building of shelters in each province as emergency guards against natural disasters so that the destitute people can be accommodated on a temporary basis.
Mr J Schippers (DA) asked if the non-existence of asset registers in some provinces was a contradiction of the Committee's earlier resolution to address this issue and therefore a reflection of the Committee's failure in trying to address the issue.
Mr Radebe (ANC) responded that the former provincial administration structures during the apartheid era were more organised in their systems, but however, this was offset by the integration of the largely disorganized former homelands structures into the new provincial system in use currently.
Ms. M Twala (ANC) asked what the code of awarding contracts was.
In response, Mr Radebe said that even though a set code of conduct existed, irregular and intimidatory behaviour like brandishing of guns in meetings often took place which would have its own effects on the parties involved, this he further noted was a controversial issue which needed the involvement of other departments like Safety and Security as criminal activities also come into the picture.
Mr E Sigwela (ANC) informed the Committee that the issue of fronting is offset by poverty within the black population. As a result, white people use black people to window dress as contractors from disadvantaged communities whereas they are actually well established institutions owned by whites. He expressed concern that unless the situation was tackled by government, it would seriously deter the establishment of a wealthy black class.
The Chairperson concurred with Mr Sigwela and added that the government should also guard against monopoly fronting by black, as there are wealthy black individuals as well.
Mr Schippers suggested further discussions within the various delegation members about the reports and this was generally agreed to by the Committee members.
There was also a general consensus that further discussions would be held once the final report had been released including the outstanding provincial reports from some of the provinces.
Mr S Opperman thanked every member of the committee for the effort put in the whole process of visiting the provinces.
Mrs. Sekgobela concluded by citing the example of a paving project in the Eastern Cape, which was very well run by women showing that women can do very well in such projects if given a fair chance.
Mr Hlengwa commented that their delegation was very well received in the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. One issue that had emerged was the question of maintaining the projects started by the Department. This is generally a problem in all the nine provinces and co-ordination is needed between the grassroots and the authorities to ensure that projects do not turn into white elephants.
The meeting was adjourned.
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