The Committee was addressed by National Treasury in regard to its concerns on the National Land Transport Bill. National Treasury had three major concerns, relating to the constitutionality of certain provisions, the financial implications, and problems with some transitional provisions. It questioned the relationship between functions allocated to province and municipality, noting the need for more clarity, and the need to take into account the position of the smaller municipalities. Concern was expressed on clause 51, with the Treasury concerned that the wording relating to the subsidisation of contracts could create indefinite entitlement, and suggesting that the clause must be re-worded, and the State Law Advisers then offered to effect a re-draft so that the clause was worded to the satisfaction of both. Further concerns related to lack of clarity around setting of fares, liabilities created for the State, and the discrepancy between the Bill and other legislation, specifically the Division of Revenue Act, The Revenue Laws Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act. Transitional responsibilities were also questioned.
The Federation of Unions of South Africa and United Transport and Allied Trade Union made some submissions in relation to the National Railway Safety Regulator Amendment Bill. Their concerns revolved around the safety of the workers on the railways. They noted the existing problems with enforcement of safety standards, noting that despite the Minister issuing directives, these had not improved. The Railway Safety Regulator needed further and substantial powers to deal with unsafe conditions. Conditions that could have the effect of undermining operational safety were being dealt with, and this was seen as a positive stelp. It welcomed the broadening of Section 20 of the principal Act. Finally they gave a list of the primary causes of train accidents. Members noted that several of the issues raised were not to do with the Bill itself, and that occupational interests would be the responsibility of the Department of Labour.
National Land Transport Bill (the Bill): National Treasury (NT) concerns
Dr Annatjie Moore, Director: Public Finance, National Treasury addressed the Committee on the concerns about the Bill. NT was generally supportive of the Bill, but had concerns relating to the constitutionality of certain provisions, the financial implications, and problems with some transitional provisions.
Dr Moore noted that amongst the constitutional issues was the relationship between the functions allocated to the municipality and the province. She emphasised that the municipality was solely responsible for some functions under the Constitution and that this should be made clearer within the Bill to allow for better coordination. Attention must also be paid to the position of the smaller municipalities.
As to the financial implications, concern was expressed over clause 51(2). Clause 51 covered subsidised service contracts and sub clause 51(2) provided that when a contact under this section or negotiated contract expired, the relevant services must continue to be subsidised and must be done in terms of a contract in terms of this section. NT was concerned that this could create an indefinite entitlement to a policy, and that there should be a policy framework to guide this section. Reservations were also expressed over sub-clause 51(3) which provided that where a contract referred to in clause 51 had expired, and no arrangements had been made to put out to tender, the Minister must enter into negotiations with the contracting authority, the National Treasury and the Auditor-General with a view to ensuring compliance. Ms Moore asked what the intention behind this section was. It was suggested that this portion of the Bill be removed and that the intention behind clause 51(3) must be clarified.
Dr Moore further raised concerns about the lack of clarity in the Bill in relation to fare-setting, noting that clauses 11, 8, 20 and 25 all contained provisions that did not necessarily tie in with each other. Concerns were also noted in relation to the liabilities created on the State in clauses 58(2)(a), and 16(8, especially in light of the taxi recapitalisation programme.
There was also some discrepancy between the provisions of this Bill and other legislation. It was noted that this Bill had mentioned the creation of a new fund, which conflicted with the Division of Revenue Act and the Revenue Laws Act, and therefore NT recommended the deletion of clauses 6(5), 35(9) and 33(b). Clause 35(8) should be removed because the matter was dealt with under the Municipal Finance Management Act.
The transitional responsibilities were further called into question, in particular that functional transport areas remained a critical, yet not clearly defined, concept in the legislation. Further clarity was also required on the creation of the public transport regulators and powers for decision making.
A State Law Adviser noted that when contracts come to an end, a tender would be issued. Until a new provider was contracted, an interim subsidised service contract would be drawn up. This was separate from the previous contract, and did not create an indefinite entitlement to a subsidy.
Ms Moore challenged this interpretation, and the State Law Adviser then offered to revisit the wording, as they were in agreement on what it should convey, but seemed to be bogged down in interpretational difficulties.
Mr S Farrow (DA) pointed out that, in the absence of a clear policy, this could lead to corruption and this would be unfortunate in a department that was already facing many similar challenges.
The Chairperson suggested that the extension of contracts provided for in this section should not be for more than a year.
No objections were received from the Treasury or the Department to this suggestion
National Railway Safety Regulator Amendment Bill (the Bill): Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) and United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utata) submission
The Committee was briefed by Ms Gretchen Humphries, Deputy General Secretary, Fedusa, who indicated that this submission was also supported by the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utata), and that both trade unions were representing workers on the railways as defined in the National Railway Safety Regulator Amendment Bill [B32 -2008] (the Bill)
Their concerns revolved around the safety of the workers on the railways and whilst they generally welcomed the advent of the Bill, they had concerns with several of the provisions.
There was an existing problem with enforcement of existing standards. The submission pointed to a 2004 incident where it was found that noise levels on Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) were 50% above acceptable levels, which could and did affect the hearing of workers, sometimes resulting in their dismissal for not having requisite levels of hearing. The Minister issued a directive that this be immediately rectified, but to date, nothing had been done.
The submission noted that while the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) reported to parliament, it had no real powers accorded to it to deal with unsafe conditions in the workplace. They submitted that the RSR should be empowered to issue prohibitions or improvement notices compelling officers to comply with legal procedures.
Lastly, they noted that the Bill had dealt with conditions that could have the effect of undermining operational safety.
Fedusa and Utata further welcomed the broadening of section 20 in the principal Act; compelling the RSR to disclose instances where officials paid little or no attention to the safety of workers. They stated that traditionally there had been a culture of secrecy amongst the management of the operators, whereby safety was regarded as more of a workers’ responsibility.
The presentation ended with the a list of primary causes of train accidents, which included: obsolete, unsafe and unhygienic locomotives; obsolete rolling stock; obsolete and inefficient signaling systems; exploitation of key employees leading to chronic fatigue; over-zealous application of transformation and managerial cover-ups leading to employees bearing the brunt of operational shortages.
Mr Cronin thanked them Unions for their representation but pointed out that several of the issues raised were not covered by this amending Bill, but did not elaborate further.
A State Law Adviser pointed out that while it was the duty of the RSR to monitor rail safety under the principal Act, occupational issues were primarily the responsibility of the Department of Labour.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Tabulation of Transnet Limited’s Proposed Amendments to the National Land Transport Bill, 2008
- Transnet submission
- South African Transport and Allied Workers Union submission
- National Treasury presentation on National Land Transport Bill
- Federation of Unions of South Africa: National Safety Regulator Amendment Bill comments
- Chris De Vos General Secretary: United Transport & Allied Trade Union submission
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
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