The Department of Transport provided a full presentation on its Strategic Plan and Budget and its successes as a department. The department indicated that it had implemented several policy directives to ensure that all transport related facilities would be ready for the World Cup showcase. The department hoped that the integrated policy directives would ultimately lead to a scenario where working class citizens could also access transport facilities to airports as there were currently no public transport facilities to and from airports.
The Department assured the Committee that the budget roll-over should not be considered as serious as the department still had to pay provinces for services rendered on behalf of the national department. The Department stated that the government was due restart the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme after it was initially halted due to financial constraints as well as the nationwide roll-out of the Railway Police to combat criminal activities on the railways.
Ms Mpumi Mpofu (Director General: Department of Transport said that the DOT Strategic Plan was large centralised around the APEX-Priorities as set out by the President. These APEX Priorities, geared towards poverty alleviation, job creation, infrastructural development, skills transfer and development among others.
The DOT had decided to establish an independent transport regulator as well as an ombudsman to better facilitate communication between government, the taxi industry, civil society and the public as well as reviewing and implementing government policy directives.
The current electricity crisis received attention through the Electricity Shortage Intervention Plan which was a commitment to reduce electricity consumption at airports and other identified areas. An integrated plan was developed to restructure the defunct Road Accident Fund into viable agency, devoid of fraud and corruption.
In relation to the DOT budget, Ms Mpofu indicated the allocations for 2008-2009 rather than the whole MTEF and highlighted new areas:
She said that a new amount of R500 million had been allocated for the incorporation of Shosholoza Meyl that was to enable the consolidation of Shosholoza Meyl under Metrorail, so that DOT finally had all the building blocks of what was called Passenger Rail Service under one roof. This concluded the consolidation of Passenger Rail Services.
In keeping with the APEX Priorities, government had decided to reintroduce the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme with a budget of R200 million after it proved to costly when it was introduced.
With regards to management issues at the DOT it was stated that 668 post had been approved, 465 had been filled, whereas 203 posts were still vacant (30%). The DOT had also been busy with the training of their entry-level staff, especially with ABET courses and other skills development workshops, such as food aid.
The presentation highlighted the need for Low Cost Carrier infrastructure and the support and supply of transport access to airports as South Africa now had several low cost airliners. Airports have not responded meaningfully by providing or allowing for the provision of public transport facilities to airports. For example currently if Mango charged R150 ticket Johannesburg to Cape Town on a special, the person who is going to jump onto that Mango flight living in Soweto would probably pay R300 to get from Soweto to the airport to catch that flight; that did not make sense.
Ms Mpofu noted that the DOT was very reluctant to review the brand because it was one brand that was well known. The challenge was not the brand, the challenge was whether the citizens of the country were complying with the laws of the road and a behavioural issue, and the emphasis was going to shift to behavioural change. She added that it was important that South Africans should realise that their actions can cause death, mutilation and carnage.
Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) said that to many people R1 million was a lot of money, thus the underexpenditure of R216 million by the Department of Transport (DOT) was still a huge amount.
Mr L Van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) noted that the DOT budget, in terms of the government framework, was shared with some of the department’s agencies, thus the 1,6 % under-spending could be distorted as those agencies might not yet have spent the money allocated to them from the DOT. He added that when government departments underspent on their budgets it was a clear sign of bad planning and coordination.
Mr V Windvoel (ANC, Mpumalanga) supported Mr Van Rooyen and stated that percentages do not reflect the real scenario.
Ms Mpumi Mpofu (Director General: DOT) replied that the DOT was not of the opinion that R216 million was a justified amount for underspending as any form of under-spending was considered as a bad reflection on a department not delivering on its mandate.
She added that this amount did not worry the DOT as it related to matters beyond DOT’s control as the DOT still had to pay R38 million to the KZN Provincial Government for the Sani Pass Road Upgrade Programme. National Treasury had not clarified how the DOT was supposed to transfer the money and that the transferring methodology had to be worked out before the DOT could transfer the money.
Mr F Adams (ANC, Western Cape) asked why the DOT did not use part of the R216 million that was underspent to help the financially crippled Road Accident Fund (RAF).
Mr Dan Pretorius (CFO: DOT) replied that RAF was not eligible to receive funds from the Fiscus as it received funds from fuel levies.
Ms H Matlanyane (ANC, Limpopo) asked why DOT did not include any information on its efforts to improve safety on trains.
Ms Mpofu replied that the presentation did touch on the rollout of improvements to security related infrastructure and that DOT had just launched the police station at Bellville station. The next rollout and implementation would be unveiled in Gauteng, followed by other provinces. Since the inception of the railway police in the Western Cape, crime had dropped by 20%.
Mr Tau said that it was very important for the DOT to look at cities other then the host cities that need to accommodate national sides for training purposes.
Mr Van Rooyen asked what DOT had done so far to reduce the vacancy rate within the department.
Mr R Jock (Deputy Director General: Management Services) replied that the DOT had implemented an integrated strategy to appoint new staff as well as retaining staff and that it gave certain incentives and offers to skilled individuals to stay in the public service. There had also been a concerted drive to establish what other government departments pay their staff so that the DOT could make adjustments, where needed.
He said that poaching was a daily occurrence and that contracts needed to have a limitation on this, as government invested a lot in its staff. The DOT had started with a wellness programme that addressed the mental, emotional and health well being of its staff and family to ensure that certain issues do not stifle the ability to perform of their staff. Mr Jock added that due to the high volumes of applications, a private recruitment company had been dealing with applications as the DOT only advertised annually.
Mr Windvoel asked what the vacancy rate was numerically.
Mr Jock replied that of the 668 post approved, 465 had been filled, whereas 203 posts were still vacant.
Mr M Mzizi (IFP, KZN) asked whether the scrapping of taxis was a national or provincial matter.
Ms Mpofu replied that the national DOT had been working very closely with provincial governments in the scrapping of the 13 500 taxis, as indicated in the report. So far 2 500 taxis had been scrapped in the Eastern Cape, 1 300 in Gauteng, 1 500 in KZN, 2300 in Limpopo, 222 in the Northern Cape and 349 in the Western Cape.
Mr Tau said that he had received feedback from taxi operators that they had not yet received the R50 000 from the DOT to acquire a new taxi. He added that larger operators had access to loans from banks whereas those operators who had only one taxi were facing serious difficulties in accessing loans. It was noted that the mere fact that a taxi operator had a licence should act as collateral to banks so that these taxi operators could be helped.
Mr Pretorius replied that the scrapping of taxis had had to be put on hold as government did not have the funds to continue the recapitalisation plan, but that those issues had been resolved and government had indicated that it would fund the programme with R339 million.
Ms Matlanyane said that when government implemented the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme it should have been done swiftly. Many people had personally complained to her about reckless driving by taxis. She asked what the difference between a Siyaya and an Inyathi was.
Ms Mpofu replied that a Siyaya was the first taxi vehicle in 2005 that passed the security checks for the Taxi Recapitulation Programme. These vehicles were fitted with roll bars, type 2 brakes and safety belts for each passenger. In 2006, the specifications were altered to include anti-tyre bursts and a speed governor. The Inyathi, a Chinese product, had these specifications and it was indicated by colour codes and the South African flag at the side. The departments took into account the costs involved in fitting these specifications and had engaged with various stakeholders to address this problem. The DOT was also of the opinion that smaller operators who did not have access to collateral should be granted loans by banks as they do have an operating license as proof of their business.
Mr Mzizi asked why there was a need for a single transport regulator and whether this would lead to centralisation.
Ms Mpofu replied that it would not boil down to centralisation, but more streamlining the transport industry. This was to keep it in line with DOT policy directives as all existing regulators acted independently from each other with no coherent strategy or policy directives.
Mr Windvoel said that the increases in the number of toll roads in South Africa was having an adverse affect on the poor and marginalized who could not afford the toll road charges.
Ms Mpofu replied that the DOT had always been committed to alternative roads; however the DOT was faced with decaying roads. The charges imposed on motorists at toll points, assisted government in maintaining the roads to secure the safe passage of South Africans.
Mr Mzizi asked what the correlation was between the 22% of female staff exposed to women empowerment leadership programmes and the 6 that were registered in Food Aid Leadership.
Mr Jock replied that the 22% referred to entry-level staff who had been put through ABET courses as part of the DOT social responsibility programme. The DOT had also provided 716 external bursaries in 2007 to various Centres of Development.
Mr Windvoel asked what had happened to the intended Moloto Corridor project.
Ms Mpofu replied that Cabinet did approve this project, but the problem had been with funding. The National Treasury had not yet allocated funding to this project. The groundwork for this project was problematic as there were serious issues pertaining to technical capacity and the DOT had initially funded the feasibility and environmental studies.
Mr Adams asked what was happening regarding the restructuring of the Road Accident Fund.
Ms Mpofu stated that that the restructuring of RAF was a slow and complex process as there had been several organisational and institutional challenges. Currently, the DOT was involved in a court case regarding this matter and therefore the DOT could not continue with the restructuring process as it awaited the verdict in this matter. The current CEO of RAF had done a sterling job in implementing mechanisms that would ensure a smooth restructuring process. She noted that there had been extensive engagement with the Department of Health on the definition of a disability and further consultation and engagement was needed before the restructuring could commence.
Ms Matlanyane asked what the DOT had lost and spent as a result of the coaches that were torched in 2007.
Ms Mpofu replied that the DOT had received a report from a task team that assessed the damage done to the coaches and that ten trains had to be cancelled that seriously affected operations in the affected areas. The Davington line had been reopened and the DOT had planned to refurbish most of its trains as well as buying new coaches. Currently there were about 4000 coaches, nation-wide.
Mr Mzizi noted that money had been allocated for the regulation and training of the taxi industry. He requested clarity on why and how the taxi industry would be regulated and trained.
Ms Mpofu replied that SANTACO had to engage with the various role-players on this issue and that SANTACO had been tasked to implement and train the taxi industry.
Mr Windvoel noted that no information was given on the Monorail project.
Ms Mpofu replied that the Monorail project would not be happening as there had been problems with the policy directives as well as submissions made. She added that rail was a national competency and hence the need for ministerial approval. If these submissions had been done properly then the Monorail could have succeeded.
Ms Matlanyane said that the Arrive Alive campaign should be an every day campaign and not just seasonal as a lot of people lost their lives on South African roads. She noted that traffic officials had to be visible, instead of acting like “spies” intent on catching people.
There was a need for road safety to be introduced at schools that would aim to inculcate a sense of responsibility.
Mr Windvoel said that the Arrive Alive campaign placed too much effort on law enforcement, rather then preventative measures. It would be more effective to use the preventative route to save more lives.
Ms Mpofu replied that South Africans were aware that they should not be driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs and that the DOT had already spent large amounts of money on preventative measures. She said it was imperative that South Africans should change their perceptions about drinking and driving.
To curb the rise in road accidents due to drinking and driving, the DOT would pilot a demerit system in Pretoria. The system would start with 12 points and points would be deducted if the motorist disobeyed the rules of the road. Motorist would then be urged to seek counselling for their problems if their licences were eventually suspended.
Mr Mzizi asked what the core function of SANTACO was.
Ms Mpofu replied that SANTACO was responsible to regulate the taxi industry in line with government policy guidelines and directives as a facilitating role, between government and the taxi industry.
The DOT did not make any financial contributions to SANTACO this financial year as the body failed to submit financial reports as agreed by government and SANTACO.
Mr Windvoel said that it was important for the DOT to curb corruption and fraud as many unlicensed cars, individuals and DOT staff were going unpunished. In addition he noted that load shedding had seriously affected transportation operations in Mpumalanga.
Ms Mpofu said that an agreement had been reached between DOT and Metrorail on this issue and that Eskom had agreed to give R500 million for the Majuba project.
She added that reserves at ESKOM were and still is a problem. This led to a decision to allow Eskom to first replenish its reserves. A new road had also been built to accommodate the heavy-duty trucks, owned by Eskom.
Mr Mzizi requested information on the planned establishment and formation of a Transport Ombudsman and why there had been so few black female pilots coming through the ranks.
Ms Mpofu replied that a Transport Ombudsman was a necessary intervention. The current structure could not perform its oversight properly, as it had not been independent.
On the issue of transformation in the aviation industry, she said that it took about 10 years for an individual to be able to fly a Boeing 747. This rested on the number of hours the person had flown. Given the time since the inception of democracy, this process would not produce black female pilots overnight.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
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