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JOINT BUDGET COMMITTEE
06 March 2007
BUDGET HEARINGS: DEPARTMENTS OF TRANSPORT & HEALTH
Co-Chairpersons: Ms L Mabe (ANC) and Mr B Mkhalipi (ANC)[Mpumalanga]
Documents handed out:
Department of Transport Presentation
Department of Health Presentation
The Committee met with the Departments of Health and Transport in order to discuss the progress made since their last meeting. The Department of Transport stated that the new budget reflected government’s dedication towards improving public transport, and that a significant portion of its budget was going to the South African Rail Commuter Cooperation in order to build a sustainable rail infrastructure in the country. It outlined the learnerships and scholarships. Questions by members related to how learners could be included in the bursary schemes, the infrastructure for 2010, service delivery and expenditure, the rural infrastructure backlog, how the students wee absorbed after training. Further questions related to monitoring of funds through agencies, outreach programmes to increase awareness of the usage of rail, national road maintenance, the reasons why there was a R3 million roll over, and the poor state of roads in the Eastern Cape. The Department was asked provide a plan of transfers in writing, together with a report on their assessment on quality of roads after construction. Other questions addressed the plans to alleviate the congestion in Cape Town, adherence to standards by the provinces and municipalities, the progress of the non-motorised transport programme, and programmes to alleviate the backlog of licensing centres.
The Department of Health focused on hospital revitalisation, HIV/AIDS, and the skills development initiatives undertaken by the Department. The Department had achieved an expenditure rate of 86.3% in revitalisation and witnessed an increase in compliance reporting. Challenges related to shortage of funding through a number of projects, and the roll overs on unspent funds being approved too late in the year. Although it was trying to improve skills development initiatives there was still the challenge of attracting and retaining staff, that would not be addressed without further funding. Members questioned the Department of Health on why business plans had been submitted without any allocation of funds, and on the progress that has been regarding the monitoring and evaluation of conditional grants. The Department was also questioned on their expenditure on the hospital revitalisation programme, and on their recruitment strategy. Other questions related to training of military staff, the effectiveness of its human resources strategy, the community health workers' programmes, the progress of the monitoring and evaluation of conditional grants, the completion of four hospitals, value for money in goods and services, and whether nursing colleges were due to reopen.
Department of Transport (DOT) Briefing
Hon Jeff Radebe, Minister of Health begun by stating that he was fairly satisfied with the budget that had been allocated to the Department. The new budget reflected government’s dedication towards improving public transport, and the aim of the presentation was to focus on Departmental growth with regards to the budget.
Mr Jerry Makukwane, Deputy Director General, DOT focused on infrastructure allocation, SARCC, 2010 infrastructure development and issues surrounding skills development. He said that in terms of skills development the expanded public works programme (EPWP) remained key focus area in the Department, in that it provided employment to the lower skilled through labour intensive methods. Learnerships and scholarships had also been made available to students at various institutions, in order for the Department to address the shortage of scarce skills such as engineering and transport economics. The Department was also investing a significant portion of its budget to the Rail and Commuter Corporation (SARCC) in order to build a sustainable rail infrastructure in the country, and an increased investment on rail infrastructure meant that the Department was able to respond to a large number of commuters who were in need of transportation.
Ms L Fubbs (ANC) asked the Department to comment to the relationship between the volatility of commodity prices and the acquisition of infrastructure. In terms of skills development, she asked the Department to provide clarity on whether there were ways in which all learners could be incorporated into the bursaries scheme, even if they were not part of the correct institution. With regard to service delivery, she noted that the delivery by local governments continuously failed to match the implementation plans of national government.
Mr Dan Pretorius, Chief Financial Officer, DOT replied that in terms of the relationship between the prices and infrastructure, the Department had continuously been implementing and improving logistical systems in order to facilitate economic growth, while at the same time reducing costs.
Mr Saki Macozama, Chief Director, DOT said that learnerships of R10 million were usually exhausted every year, and that the allocations made in order to develop students were already fully utilised.
Mr J Schneeman (ANC) raised the issue of 2010 infrastructure allocation and asked the Department to comment on whether it believed that the funds would create a lasting legacy, and whether there were systems in place to monitor the funds. The Department was also asked to state whether it had a close working relationship with other departments, and whether it believed there was enough capacity to ensure effective utilisation of funds.
Minister Radebe responded that the Department had implemented a broad public transport plan that had been broadly approved by government. The first phase of the plan had been approved for 2010 preparations, and the year 2010 was regarded by the Department as an anchor in the improvement and the creation of a lasting public transport and road infrastructure network. The Department had also implemented effective monitoring systems in place, which would ensure the effective utilization of funds. With regards to interdepartmental co-ordination, the Department had developed close co-operation and working relationships with other departments, and was currently working on various projects with national and provincial departments.
Mr Macozama responded that in terms of service delivery and expenditure, the Department had been able to forge a working relationship with other spheres of government. He stated that the Department had also been working closely with the provinces, since it was the provinces that had a role to play in ensuring that municipalities delivered.
Ms B Dambuza (ANC) questioned the Department on the rural infrastructure backlog, and asked for clarity by the Department how far it had progressed in ensuring acceleration of backlogs. She also asked the Department to comment on the issues arising from the integrated development plans (IDPs), and the rehabilitation and maintenance of the national roads network in the Eastern Cape.
Mr Macozama responded that in terms of addressing the rural infrastructure backlog, the Department was working together with the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG), in order to fast track service delivery across municipalities, and improve on the road infrastructure management systems in the rural municipalities. In terms of the rehabilitation and maintenance of road infrastructure, the Department currently planned to intervene and improve the N2 in the Eastern Cape, in order to create a better and efficient port linkage between Durban and East London.
Ms L Chikuga (ANC) asked the Department to comment on impact of funding of learners, and asked whether the funding was sufficient for the expected output.
Mr Macozoma replied that the programme lasted three years and the output would only be visible in the later years. The Department also employed some of the learners who had completed the programme, and the funding only covered areas where there were scarce skills.
Ms Mabe asked the Department to provide clarity on the students who were absorbed by the private sector, and also whether they received the necessary support from provinces. In terms of the local production of output, the Department was asked to elaborate on the response from the private sector. With regard to the monitoring of funds through agencies, the Department should provide further details on the systems in place.
Mr Makukwane stated that the Department had introduced performance management contracts with each of the agencies, which were being monitored through the Public Entity Oversight programme. In terms of absorption of students into the private sector, the Department had established a committee that targeted and recruited students to acquire specific scarce skills. However the Department still needed to find the best way to keep track of how many students had been absorbed into the private sector.
Ms R Mashigo (ANC) asked about the level of independence of the South African National Roads Association (SANRAL). She asked the Department to provide clarity on whether it was involved in any outreach programmes that made the communities aware about the usage of rail.
Minister Radebe responded SANRAL was an organisation in which government was the major shareholder, and thus it had the power to appoint the Board and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In terms of the outreach programmes, the Department worked very closely with commuter organisations in creating awareness of rail transportation.
Ms Chikuga asked for further clarity on national road maintenance, and stated that the maintenance of the road between Johannesburg and Durban was inconsistent. She also said that she appreciated the fact that there was capacity building within the Department; however there were still major challenges in realigning the capacity and service delivery.
Mr Macozama replied that the Department had implemented a framework policy that was meant to specifically focus on the national roads. The Department's first priority was to maintain the existing roads that were sustainable, in order to prevent deterioration. The road between Johannesburg to Durban was managed by various authorities. Currently the Department was planning on making emergency improvements on certain parts of the road, and other parts were going to be transferred to SANRAL.
Mr Robertson (ANC) [Eastern Cape] asked for clarity on who was tasked with the maintenance of the railway line between East London and Umtata and also sought clarity how often the department would meet with the various other stakeholders to address issues.
Mr Robertson then asked the Department to provide reasons why there was a R3 million roll over, and stated that the toll roads in the Eastern Cape were just a few examples of wasteful expenditure.
Mr Pretorious replied that the over spend was a result of the Department's assistance in the development in the learning centres.
Mr Macozama said that further information would be needed in order to asses the toll situation in the Eastern Cape
Ms Mabe requested the Department to provide a plan of transfers in writing, together with a report on their assessment on quality of roads after construction.
Mr P Rabie (DA) enquired about the plans to alleviate the congestion of roads in Cape Town. He also asked the Department to elaborate on whether it planned on having another high-speed railway network other than the Gautrain.
Mr Macozama responded that in order to alleviate congestion, the Department was investing in improving the rail networks, and was thinking of starting to charge single motorists using private cars.
Mr Mkhalipi questioned the Department whether it was satisfied with the provinces and municipalities in terms of their adherence to the national norms and standards. The Department was asked to comment on the progress of the non-motorised transport programme, and also to indicate whether there was a support programme in place, that would help alleviate the backlogs and overcrowded of licensing centres.
Mr Macozoma responded that the Department needed to amplify the scale of non-motorised transport, in order to make people aware of the importance of non-motorized transport. The Department also planned to provide infrastructure support and development in the improvement non-motorised transport.
Mr Makukwane said that the Department had introduced a booking system in Gauteng, and so far it had been efficient in eliminating fraud and corruption. The Department acknowledged the fact that the Municipalities were not able to cope with demand arising from licenses, and was planning on forming a working relationship with the post office for processing the renewal of licenses.
Department of Health (DOH) Briefing
Mr Thami Mseleku, Director General, DOH focused on hospital revitalisation, HIV/AIDS, and the skills development initiatives undertaken by the Department. He stated that in terms of hospital revitalisation, the Department had achieved an expenditure rate of 86.3% at the end of January, and witnessed an increase in compliance reporting. Some of the challenges faced included that the fact funds allocated to revitalisation were only sufficient enough to spend on projects where tenders had already been awarded. Detailed breakdowns by province were given on the spending. Other challenges included very few funds available for planning, and the rollovers of unspent funds by the provinces being approved too late in the year.
In terms of HIV/AIDS it was noted that this incorporated a number of programmes. The Department had experienced an increase in the number of accredited facilities and trained staff, but the budgetary constraints were still such that the Department would not be able to reach its targets. The number of patients receiving treatment in each province was tabled.
The Department was also improving on its skills development initiatives, focusing on the internal department issues It was continuously providing internship programmes, mentorship, coaching to students and community health workers. The budget for the following year had increased to just over R5 million. Details of the bursary and internship programmes were set out. External mentorship and coaching initiatives were also being planned. The Department was engaging with other internal and external institutions in regard to the training. He detailed the training programmes and set out the emergency medical services, the clinical associates programme and the community health workers programmes.
Mr Schneeman asked the Department to provide reasons behind the increase in expenditure, and asked whether the Department felt that there was sufficient capacity to address the various challenges faced.
Mr Mseleku responded that the Department had focused on improving expenditure over a period of time. There had been a number of measures that had taken place to facilitate the improvement, and the Department had been able to assist provinces in developing business plans, and has dedicated staff looking at the conditional grants and infrastructure programmes.
Ms Fubbs asked the Department to explain what the major cost drivers were. The Department should also provide reasons on whether the Defence Force had special dispensation to attend to military personnel.
Mr Mseleku replied that the major cost drivers included the automatic HIV treatment of patients, and the hospital revitalization. In terms of the defense personnel, the staff were provided with similar training to civilian staff, however they also received an advanced certificate.
Ms Mashigo asked the Department to provide reasons why business plans had been submitted without any allocation of funds, and also asked it to provide clarity on the funding for non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Mr Mseleku responded that the business plans issue was a great misunderstanding. The business plans that were submitted were in fact plans submitted for hospital revitalisation future projects, which was why there was lack of funds. In terms of the funding of NGOs, the Department had an allocated budget dedicated to funding NGOs. In order to qualify for allocation the NGO had to exist in more than two provinces.
Ms Mabe felt strongly stated that by submitting future business plans, the Department was creating a false impression, in that they were promising to the public something that had not yet been guaranteed.
Ms B Dambuza (ANC) asked the Department to comment on the effectiveness of its human resources strategy, the Community health workers programmes, and the time frames of certain programmes.
Mr Mseleku responded that in order for the Department to effectively address the lack of human resources, health professionals needed to be paid better, and professions such as nursing needs to be prioritised. The Department had made agreements with other African states that they would not recruit from one another in a way that would hinder their recourses and so it would have to import professionals from outside the continent. It was important to note that provinces ran the community health workers programmes, and that the national department’s job was to ensure that the norms and standards were followed.
Ms Dambuza asked the Department to state the progress regarding the monitoring and evaluation of conditional grants, the completion of the four hospitals mentioned in the last quarter, and also comment on how reliable the information was.
Mr Mseleku stated that the Department had dedicated staff looking at conditional grants but that there needed to be a change of budgeting format for infrastructure. In terms of the verification of information, the Department stood by the information presented, and were continuously building capacity within the Department with regard to the monitoring and verification of information.
Mr G Steyn, Chief Director, Hospital Revitalisation, DOH added that two of the four hospitals had been completed. The hospital in George was still at a planning stage; but it was important to note that the planning was only for minor refurbishment that needed to be made at the hospital.
Ms Chikuga noted that the Department had spent most of its allocated funds on goods and services, and asked whether the Department received value for money in goods and services. In terms of monitoring and evaluation, there seemed to be a lack of accountability with respect to the individuals that performed the monitoring. She also asked the Department to state on whether the antiretroviral (ARV) centres had been informed about the fact that their budget did not allow them to take in any more patients.
Mr Mseleku replied that the goods and services provided to the Department were of a high quality and standard. In terms of the monitoring and evaluation the Department had been heavily impacted upon by the brain drain, and the problem would continue to persist throughout the year, unless something drastic was done. With regard to the ARV Centres, the Department had procedures in place for taking people on, and it was important to note that the Department did not supply ARVs to people without verification.
Miss Chikuga asked the Department to state how many closed nursing schools were being reopened during the financial year.
Mr Mseleku replied that many collages had been reopened whilst others have been incorporated into universities. The main challenge was in acquiring the necessary staff and educators at the collages.
Ms Mabe said that there were still problems with the transfer payments to provinces, and asked the Department to comment on their progress.
Mr Mseleku responded that the bulk of the Department's budget went to transfer payments, and that the main budget came from the conditional grants.
The meeting was adjourned.
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