ATC210601: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Transport on an Oversight visit to the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Dated12 May 2021
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Transport on an Oversight visit to the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Dated12 May 2021
The Portfolio Committee on Transport (“the Committee”), having undertaken an oversight visit to the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality (“MMM”, “Mangaung” or “the Municipality”)from13 to14 November2020, reports as follows:
- Mr MJ Zwane, MP (Chairperson and Leader of the Delegation)
- Ms MM Ramadwa, MP
- Ms F Khumalo, MP
- Mr LN Mangcu, MP
- Mr LE McDonald, MP
- Mr TB Mabhena, MP
- Mr IS Seitlholo, MP
- Mr M Chabangu, MP
- Mr K Sithole, MP
STAFF ACCOMPANYING THE DELEGATION
1. Ms N Matinise - Stand-in Committee Secretary;
2. Ms P Mahlathi – Committee Assistant; and
3. Dr S Ngesi – Committee Researcher.
The purpose of the visit was to gather insight into the progress made to date, in the implementation of the Integrated Public Transport Network (IPTN) in the Municipality. The focus was on the Bus Rapid Transit(BRT) infrastructure projects component of the IPTN for the Municipality and its budget allocation versus budget spent to date.
As part of the visit, the Committee also visited the Lengau Licencing and Testing Centre (LTC) in the Municipalityto observe some of the challenges experienced at the centre internally and from the public that have complained of limitations to access services from it.
- MANDATES AND FUNCTIONS
- The Mandate of the Department of Transport
The Department of Transport (“the Department”) is responsible for the legislation and policies for rail, pipelines, roads, airports, harbours, and the intermodal operations of public transport and freight.
It is also responsible for conducting sector research, formulating legislation and policy to set the strategic direction of subsectors, assigning responsibilities to public entities, regulating through setting norms and standards, and monitoring implementation.
Chapter 4 of the National Development Plan (NDP) calls for the development of economic infrastructure as the foundation of social and economic development. This call is given action by Outcome 6 (an efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure network) of government’s 2014-2019 Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), which is directly aligned with the work of the Department.
2.2 The Mandate of the Portfolio Committee onTransport
The prime mandate of the Committee is governed by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (“the Constitution”), in respect of its legislative and oversight responsibilities as public representatives. It is required to consider legislation referred to it and consider all matters referred to it in terms of the Constitution, the Rules of the National Assembly (NA) or resolutions of the House. It is also required to respond to matters referred to it by Government within its mandate. In addition, the Committee is entrusted with considering the budgets, Strategic Plans, Annual Performance Plans (APPs) and the Annual Reports of the Department and entities that fall within the transport portfolio.
Moreover, the Committee conducts oversight over the Minister of Transport as the executive authority that provides policy leadership over the programmatic deliverables of the Department and its entities. Much of the Committee’s oversight work focuses on how the Director-General (DG) leads the departmental administration to interpret the policy, turn it into programmed plans using the allocated budget to implement the policies as per the mandate of the Department.
- SITE VISIT AND BRIEFINGS
3.1 The site visit (13 November 2020)
- Bloemfontein Licencing and Testing Centre
The Committee met representatives of the National Department of Transport, Free State Department of Transport officials, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipalityand LTCofficials. The purpose of the meeting was to receive a briefing on the challenges experienced at the centre.
The Committee first received a presentation comprising ofa brief overview of the operations and a reflection on the challenges experienced by the LTC, as well as possible remedial actions linked thereto.
- Challenges experienced during and post lockdown
Table 1 below, illustrates the challenges and possible remedial action for the challenges experienced at the LTC.
Table 1: Challenges and Remedies
Increase in the National Traffic Information System (eNaTIS) Debt due to unpaid motor vehicle licence fees.
Department in the process of Procuring Debt Management System via REA.
Closing of Testing stations due to detected Covid-19 positive cases.
Disinfecting service provider appointed and disinfecting on a daily basis.
Employees provided with the necessary PPE and Training.
Internal control measures are in place e.g. social distancing, wearing of masks and temperature scanning.
Limited number of clients serviced in a day.
The Testing Station opening two Saturdays in a month.
Currently the Station is operating at 100% capacity.
Backlog on the renewal of driver’s licences.
The Testing Station opening two Saturdays in a month. Seven examiners deployed to conduct learners and driver’s tests.
Limited number of live enrolment units (LEU) (7 deployed and 4 are operational).
Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA) to attend to the call logged.
Limited number of Computerised Learners Licence Testing (CLLT) functional (20 in place but 7 operational).
Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) to attend to the call logged.
RTMC to attend to the call logged.
3Gs to be deployed as back up in case of cable theft.
Telephone lines not functional.
The Department currently working with Vodacom to replace the current telephone system.
Covid-19 related issues include service concerns from the public,ranging from long queues due to shortage of personnel, limited number of services offered, to limited operating hours and out of precinct parking that had to be enforced due to Covid-19 protocols.
It was reported that there were seven (7) officials (administrative Clerks) who had been charged by the Hawks (SIU) for fraud, corruption and money laundering at the centre.
LTC areas visited were the Service Centre, eye testing, testing classroom and debt management sections.The following issues emerged from the visit of these areas:
- The queues were moving in a slightly slow pace at the service centre, but the Committee was informed that there had been some improvement on the day of the oversight visit. There was a special counter meant for service to the elderly, people with disabilities, pregnant women and school children and a bulk service counter meant for service to corporate companies with bulk services.
- At the eye testing section, two out of eight machines were not in good working condition.
- The Debt Management Centre has a compliment of about 10 officials, three of them were on sick leave and the rest were on duty.
- The Committee was taken through an area where the new proposed Debt Management System (DMS) would be implemented. The purpose of the DMS is to manage and follow up on the debt owed to the department, which was reported to be to the tune of approximately R400 million. According to the Acting Director, the DMS has not yet been procured, but there has been conceptual work done in the form of benchmarking with other provinces.
- During the engagements at the Service Centre, the Committee was informed that there was no law that regulated the process of issuing professional driving permits (PDPs) to foreign nationals. It was unclear whether there was a process of establishing whether foreign nationals had criminal records in their countries of origin prior to being granted PDPs in South Africa.
- Integrated Public Transport Network (IPTN) in Mangaung
The Committee visited the bus depot construction site, which is part of the Phase 1 infrastructure project of the Municipality’s IPTN. The project is still at its infant stage, as sample approvals had just been granted by built environment professionals.
The table below illustrates all relevant information about the project as presented.
Table 2: Bus depot construction project
Thereafter, the Committee visited the Municipality’sdepot where the new Hauweng (BRT) buses are temporarily housed. Amongst the other municipal fleet that was at the depot, wereless than 10 Hauweng coachesthat were purchased in 2019. These buses have been stationary for about a period of a year which will culminate in them depreciating without having been put into use.
Responses to questions that were asked were deferred to the deliberations session that was scheduled for the following day (14 November 2020).
3.2 Debriefing Session (14 November 2020)
The Committee took a resolution not to engage on matters relating to the LTC due to the absence of senior officials from the LTC. The Committee opined that continuing with the deliberations on the matter would have been a futile exercise because the officials present would not have been able to give adequate responses. It was therefore resolved that the officials be released so that the senior officials and relevant department overseeing the LTCcan be summoned to account in a meeting of the Committee, as soon as possible.
- IPTN Presentation
The Committee received a briefing from the Municipalityon progress made to date pertaining to the implementation of the IPTN. The presentation focused on the BRT infrastructure projects component and budget allocation versus budget spent.
It was reported that the project would be implemented in phases:
- Phase 1-4: Bloemfontein;
- Phase 5-6:Botshabelo and Thaba-Nchu; and
- After Phase 6: Rural Corridors.
- The LTC carries out licencing and testing functions in terms of the service level agreement entered between the National Department of Transport and Free State Traffic Department within the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipal area.
- The services rendered by the institution include vehicle registrations, issuing and renewal of vehicle licences, testing for driver’s licences, issuing of roadworthy certificates, conversion of foreign licences to South African licences, Weight Bridge operations, testing for learners licences and issuing of PDPs.
- The City of Mangaung allegedly purchased 10 buses at a cost of R5.5 million per bus, which amounted to R55 million in total. As per the report, the reason for the cost was that the buses had to be modified to meet universal accessibility standards. Part of the modifications include disability-friendly features and security cameras inside the coaches.
- There was public participation and community engagement on the roll-out of the IPTN.
- Currently, the coaches are temporarily housed at the MMM depot, while the construction of the bus depot project is underway. This is a concern as they are not operating in order to generate revenue while they continue to depreciate in value. The depot visited was at its foundation phase and it was inconceivable as to why the municipality would have purchased busses prior to having the facilities to safely store these vehicles. There was also concern that the modifications for the bus routes were not completed so the buses could not run on the intended routes yet.
- The coaches were purchased through a finance lease, which was obtained through an open tender process. The budget spent on the purchase of the buses seems to be inflated and there was a need to get clarity on the cost price for each bus as well as the cost for each modification done to the buses.
- The Municipalityreported that it was required to afford Siyazi Consulting the independent technical support to advise the taxi industry during the process of buying the taxi industry out of the route that will be operated by Hauweng bus services. Three taxi associations are earmarked for buy-out, namely,Greater Bloemfontein Taxi Association (GBTA), Thaba Nchu’ Long and Short Taxi Association (THALSTA) and Benoni Taxi Association (BTA); and a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) has been finalised to that effect.
- The MoA with the bus operator, Interstate Bus Lines (IBL) has not yet been concluded.
- A form of a loan was approved by the National Treasury. An appointed service provider for the lease procurement of the fleet through an open tender system was obtained because the Municipalitywas unable to service more financial loans due to its dire financial state. Extras and a 20% commission for the service provider after the lease have been factored into the amounts that will be presented to the Committee in a form of a comprehensive report on this matter.
- A benchmarking exercise was concluded, where the City of George, City of Cape Town, City of Tshwane and City of Johannesburg were consulted during the period 2017-2020.
- The buses were procured by the Free State Provincial Government on behalf of the Municipalityand will be transferred to the Vehicle Operating Company (VOC), once all processes have been completed.
- The project started in 2014. It is currently at the infant stage because the Municipalitystarted with the Intermodal Facility roll-out and there were reported delays owing to litigation and public unrest. The depot is at the border of Ward 1 and 4.At the commencement of the project, the Municipalityerroneously engaged with an incorrect ward councillor and upon realising this misstep,the Municipalityhad to interact with the correct ward councillor. Inevitably, this caused some delays in the execution of the project. One of the service providers interdicted the project as it was demanding to be involved. Litigation was consideredby the city.The service provider influenced the Business Forums andlater individuals disrupted the work onsite. The situation became volatile and the lives of the officials working onsite were threatened. Violent protests due to non-payment of sub-contractors by main contractors that were prevalent during this period also contributed to the delays in the project completion.
- Public participation was conducted where all seven towns were engaged and the naming of the bus service “Hauweng” was decided upon at that level.
- The Municipalityindicatedthat the licence plates and discs for the buses have been paid for. The process was concluded in February 2020 so the installation could commence anytime.
- There is a planned dry-run of the Hauweng service. The frequency will be once a month over a 30 km radius per coach. The drivers are currently undergoing operational training.
- Phase 1C is a pilot project. The Council approved a Conformity of Production (COP)in September 2020 but there was a shortfall that had to be taken into account.
- March 2021 was the prescribed Phase 1A infrastructure construction projects completion date. This includes the depot and road/bus station construction projects.
- The IPTN project will be run by the Municipalityuntil 2036. It will be implemented on a 3- year cycle until completion.
- The Brandwag route had been earmarked for commencement of operation during 2020. The legality of this route was in dispute.
- R1.1bn cumulative budget has been allocated for the project.
- The role of the National Department on Transport in the project remains unclear.
- The absence and/or unavailability of senior leadership and officials from the Municipality, the LTC and the Provincial Department to accompany members to all visited sites was a concern as the members could not get responses on all of their queries at the time.
Given the observationsthat emerged from the deliberations and site visits, the Committee recommends that the Minister of Transport should, within 30 days from the date of adoption of the reportby the National Assembly,ensurethat:
- The National Department of Transportclarifythe process of obtaining PDPs by foreign nationals.
- The Municipality mustconfirm the number of buses purchased, give a detailed breakdown of the base cost of the buses, the modification features and itemised prices for the Hauweng bus service coaches. They must also include a list of the exact number of buses purchased, the vehicle registration numbers (number plates) linked to each vehicle as well as provide details on the registration of these vehicles.
- The Municipality submit a report on how many women are employed at the infrastructure projects and how many of them are occupying management positions.
- The National Department of Transport provide a report clarifying its involvement in the IPTN project implemented by the municipalityand the Free State Department of Police, Roads and Transport.
- The National Department of Transport must deliver a report to the Committee outlining which phases of this project and routes are in operation and by which dates these became operational or are intended to be operational. This is required because members noted that some phases or routes had not yet been in operation by the dates presented to the Committee at the time of the oversight (such as the pilot project that was due to be implemented in July 2020).
- The Municipalitysubmit a comprehensive report on its spending trend/pattern on the IPTN since its inception. This report must clarify how the bus purchases were funded. The report should encompass whether the municipality has had to return unspent funds to the National Department of Transport.
- The Municipalityprovide the Committee with the MoA between itself and the three taxi associations (GBTA, THALSTA and BTA) whose routes stand to be impacted by the implementation of the Municipality’s IPTN. They must also indicate whether they have sufficient budget required for the buy-out of the transport operators from the routes intended to be taken over by the buses.
- The Municipality must submit a report on how many times the contractors linked to the project required extensions of construction to the depot and/or road infrastructure.
- There was a need, as soon as the Committee programme allows,to schedule a follow up engagement regarding the Mangaung IPTN projects with all relevant officials and senior staff members present, due to the absence of senior leadership from the Municipality such as the MMC and Head of Department, as well as senior staff members from the LTC during the oversight visit. There are also several aspects of the project indicated above that require further clarity during the follow up engagement.
The provision of safe, reliable, affordable and efficient public transport available to all citizens of South Africa is crucial. As part of its oversight responsibilities, parliament, through the work of this Committee, has to hold the executive authority accountable. Therefore, parliament should use its constitutional powers to continue to monitor that the Minister of Transport, the Free State Department of Police, Roads and Transport, as well asthe Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality implement the proposedrecommendations of this report.
Report to be considered.
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