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Speech notes by MPL Vicky Knoetze – Annual Budget Vote 2015/16 Financial Year – Department of Roads and Public Works – Plenary (2 – 5 June 2015).

BY Vicky Knoetze MPL, DA Shadow MEC for Roads & Public Works

 

No Plan to address the R 23 Billion Roads Maintenance Back-Log in the EC

 

  • No Plan to address the R 23 Billion Back-Log on Roads.
  • Linking the Fuel Levy to roads maintenance will assist in eliminating the back-log.

 

Honourable speaker, honourable premier, honourable members and guests.

 

Honourable speaker, the premier stated in the state of the province address that 1.3 Billion will be spent on construction, maintenance and repairs of a number of roads especially roads that lead to health care facilities. The premier further stated that through SANRAL during the 2015/16 financial year, 33 projects amounting to R 2.2 Billion will be implemented. R 5 Billion will be spent on rural roads in order to boost economic development.

 

It was stated in the Provincial Budget Speech stated that the agenda for economic growth and development is founded on infrastructure development and maintenance. Thus, government will invest in the provision of road and improved transport logistics. It was further acknowledged that there is a huge backlog on roads infrastructure and a promise was made to prioritise roads that lead to schools, health facilities, agricultural production and tourism destinations.

 

The allocation for the department is R 4 251 304 billion for the 2015/16 financial year which is an increase of 6.8% when compared to the 2014/15 revised estimate.

 

The main source of funding is the equitable share at R 2. 9 billion as well as conditional grants at R 1.3 billion of the total departmental receipts.

 

Throughout we must keep in mind that the aim of the Department of Roads and Public Works is to provide and manage the provincial roads network and the building infrastructure as well as to drive the implementation of the EPWP.

 

 

PROGRAMME 1: ADMINISTRATION

 

Honourable speaker, the department of roads and public works was mandated to become the provincial nerve centre for infrastructure delivery and a driver of socio-economic development.

 

It was however found that the department is still operating without an approved organogram. Till when will this be a repetitive finding, honourable speaker?

 

Further, there is a lack of a proper and clearly defined Service Delivery and Operational Models.

 

There is a need for a significant internal restructuring process to shift towards strategic operational alignment so that resource allocation responds to critical areas of service demand and the needs of core programmes.

 

 

 

 

PROGRAMME 2: PUBLIC WORKS INFRASTRUCTURE

 

Honourable speaker, in this programme it was found that there is no effective monitoring of service providers responsible for constructing government buildings. State buildings that are vacant continue to be vandalised, therefore it is clear that department is failing to properly maintain and take responsibility of its own state owned assets.

The Democratic Alliance is outraged by the vandalism of Gqebera High School which cost R40 million to build. This loss constitutes wasteful and fruitless expenditure. Taxpayer’s money has been wasted.

 

Another example is Ilungelo Public school, one of six schools in Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality that have been neglected and vandalised, two of these are Mlungisi Perfector in KwaNobuhle and Khumbulani High School in Sydenham.

Last year, it was reported that 310 schools were unofficially closed. The question that must be answered is what will happen to these 310 school buildings after it has been closed?

 

There is no clear plan for how the departments involved will ensure that these state owned buildings are maintained and not vandalised, there is no clear plan of how the department will look after its own assets.

 

PROGRAMME 3: ROADS INFRASTRUCTURE

 

The department was allocated R 2. 038, 840 Billion for the maintenance of provincial roads which is a 15.1% increase from the previous year.

 

Honourable speaker, the recommendations contained in the report don’t speak to what must be done to address the fact that there is still an R 23 Billion back-log on road maintenance in the Eastern Cape. An amount that is growing year on year.

 

In committee we agreed that the recommendations must contain a bold statement of what steps will be taken to address the back-log and a shortage of funds for road maintenance. The report contains no such recommendation; in fact, the finding does not even mention it.

 

The committee further agreed that tis report must go back to redevelop all findings and recommendations on this specific programme and the committee agreed to a list of findings and recommendations that must be included.

In this the final report handed over to us last night, the findings and recommendations does not included all findings and recommendations as agreed upon, such as:

 

a)    A plan to address the funding backlog – through the fuel levy as an example.

b)    The classification of roads as municipal, provincial and national as there is still great uncertainty in this regard.

c)    The allocation of emergency graders in all districts.

 

Other findings and recommendations are watered down and vague, such as the prioritisation of roads leadings to schools hospitals and tourism destination, no prioritisation is taking place.

 

The Annual Performance Plan of the Department states that, the current level for funding of maintenance is only 31% of the minimum sustainable level and that the under-funding of 69% of the roads industry was due to the fact that the fuel levy was delinked from roads maintenance and upgrading and that the money is being used for other purposes.

 

The report findings and recommendations not even make mention of the most pressing issues. There is a clear refusal to acknowledge that the need for funding to eliminate South Africa’s road maintenance backlog is the direct result of a decades-long failure by government to effectively invest in road maintenance.

 

Further, government must also start to shoulder the blame for the inefficient and ineffective use of the allocated funding for roads maintenance. The DA has stated before, and I will reiterate the point: One of the only methods to alleviate the back-log on roads maintenance is for road maintenance fund to be sourced primarily from the fuel levy.

 

The AA study, conducted in 2008, shows that abolishing the dedicated fuel levy in 1988 resulted in significantly less spending on road infrastructure and maintenance which, in turn, resulted in the deterioration of the quality of our roads.

 

Government is guilty of constant underinvestment in roads maintenance and infrastructure to the detriment of all South Africans.

 

Further to the underinvestment, it is clear that there is inefficient and ineffective use of available funding. A dedicated, road maintenance fund – sourced primarily from the fuel levy should ensure regular supply of funds to address the road maintenance backlog.

 

South Africa’s road network is deteriorating because of inadequate funding and rising costs of construction and maintenance. The state has increasingly relied on private concessions to deal with this backlog, thus pricing road usage beyond what many can afford.

Emphasis must be placed on the maintenance and upgrading of the rural roads network, we cannot have a situation again as in the 2014/15 financial year where we are 8 months into the financial year and the rural roads maintenance contracts are not awarded yet and it is up to the DA to take a motion to the NCOP to force the department to do its job. A close eye will be kept on the spending of conditional grants such as the provincial roads maintenance grant which is a conditional grant, especially due to the fact that by the mid-year review last year only 37% of this grant had been spent.

Further to this honourable speaker, the findings state that the department has no infrastructure master plan. How is this possible?

Are we supposed to tell the people of the Eastern Cape that this is the Department that was mandated to be the Infrastructure Nerve Centre of the Eastern Cape but there is no trace of any Infrastructure Master Plan?

Recommendations state that we must have an Infrastructure Master Plan within 30 days. Honourable speaker, I am concerned what will the quality of a plan will be that was drawn up within 30 days, will we suddenly be able to come up with a plan to address to R 23 Billion backlog and deal with all infrastructure related issues, you could not even do this in the last 21 years, now we want to draw up a plan to save us all within 30 days?

 

PROGRAMME 4: EPWP

 

Honourable speaker, what is the use of creating employment opportunities through EPWP but then 45 000 household contractors are not paid on time?

 

Honourable speaker, we must do better than this.

 

In conclusion, the DA will play an important oversight role in terms of monitoring the expenditure as well as the allocation of funds as it is an indicator to determine whether the department is spending the tax payers money in the most efficient and effective way possible and in doing so is achieving its objectives in terms of service delivery.

 

Honourable speaker, we received this important report the evening before we need to debate on it. What is this institution coming to? A report must be tabled at a meeting attended by all members of the committee, debate must take place on the findings and recommendations and it must then be adopted. The report we received last night does not correctly state the findings and recommendations we agreed upon in programme 3. There is a total disregard for the rules and the processes of this institution.

 

Honourable speaker, it is further clear, in light of the report that this department has a long way to go to reach its objectives. Due to the lack of proper findings in recommendations mainly under programme 3, roads infrastructure and the fact that the recommendations and findings do not correspond to those agreed to by the committee and which is now not captured in full in this report, the DA will not be able to support the report.

 

Thank you.

 June 03, 2015
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