Transport Budget Debate Speech(Vote 12)

May 6, 2022 | Press Releases

Before commencing this Debate, I would like to offer the IFP’s deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones in the recent floods. We hold them up in prayer.

Hon. Speaker, Hon. MECs, Hon. Members, this Debate comes in the aftermath of the torrential rains that caused widespread damage to infrastructure and resulted in loss of lives in our province. It has also shown us, with stunning clarity, how the Department has failed to maintain road infrastructure. This cannot be ignored. Having said that, the IFP supports the R12.474 billion Budget for the 2022/23 financial year allocated to the Department of Transport. Our province has been battered by the flood disaster, where many roads and bridges were flooded. Disasters in KwaZulu-Natal are no longer unforeseen. The province is experiencing the serious and unprecedented effects of climate change. The 2022 floods were the most devastating in terms of geographical coverage, severity of damage and extent of loss of lives and infrastructure. The recent floods laid bare the incompetence by this Department in effectively addressing the road infrastructure backlog. Many roads, which were in a bad state before the floods, have now been worsened. We have been repeatedly calling on the Department to fix roads badly in need of repair but our calls fell on deaf ears. The Department must be held accountable for letting our people down by not fixing roads.

Now the Department is faced with the mammoth task of building roads that were flooded in 2019/20, and now in 2022. However, we appreciate that R780 million has been allocated to build roads that were flooded during last year’s floods. The IFP calls upon the Hon. MEC to be transparent about how much will be spent on fixing roads and bridges that were flooded in the past few weeks and in the awarding of tenders. Competent contractors must be appointed and SMMEs must be prioritised. We also acknowledge the efforts of the former MEC who, in his short tenure, worked hard to address some of the challenges. As in the words of John C. Maxwell, ‘believe leadership is servant hood. It’s my responsibility to make sure my people have what they need to succeed and get their work done’. The MEC must ensure that the work is done to the highest standards so we never again fail the people of our province.

THE 2022/23 BUDGET ALLOCATION

Hon. MEC, it is a shame that you have inherited a Department that is in shambles. Many wrong things happened before you but now it is your duty to provide tangible solutions and outcomes-based leadership to solve them. While we support the Budget, the IFP states without fear that it does not trust that this Budget will be fully spent by the Department. It is a shame that the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport has lost R47.691 million, which has to be reallocated to other provinces, as the Department has failed spectacularly to spend its grant money. This is an insult to the people of our province, as there are many people who are still crossing rivers due to lack of bridges, or having no roads at all, and many roads are in bad state. Urgent and decisive action is needed against this Department. Incompetence must not be tolerated, condoned or overlooked. The IFP believes that all learners must be provided with safe scholar transport.

The allocation of R459.143 million for 2022/23 financial year towards scholar transport is welcomed, and it is pleasing to note that the Department of Transport has increased the number of schools that will benefit from scholar transport, from 363 to 397. Further, the amount of R1 309 303 billion during the 2022/23 financial year towards the Public Transport Operations Grant, towards the subsidisation of public transport services, is welcomed. The IFP reiterates its call for a taxi subsidy to be implemented. This is a call we made on numerous occasions, which sadly was ignored. We urge the Hon. MEC to look into this matter with the urgency it deserves. With the Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant (PRMG) and the EPWP Grant for Provinces, the PRMG sees an increase of R789.799 million, R607.161 million, and R433.049 million, over the 2022/23 MTEF.

The Department, in recent years, has had challenges with spending the allocated Budget for this programme, which has, in turn, negatively impacted on the Department’s planned infrastructure projects. These challenges include the suspension of the Vukuzakhe Emerging Contractor Development Programme; contractors experiencing financial difficulties; two contracts being declared irregular by the AG, meaning that the Department could not use these contracts to implement projects; challenges with access to quarries due to stoppage of work by local Amakhosi, etc. We seek answers as to how the Department intends to address these challenges. Hon. MEC, this Budget is not for incompetent contractors who are awarded tenders to build roads but fail to deliver on time. Incompetent contractors must be blacklisted and officials who are in cahoots with those contractors must face the full wrath of the law. Further, this Budget is not for irregular expenditure. It is shocking that the KZN Department of Transport will spend R25 million on a service provider, Open Water Advanced Risk Solutions, to investigate R17 billion irregular expenditure that occurred over a seven-year period. The Department cites the shortage of staff as a contributing factor to their dismal performance. This makes no sense. This amount of irregular expenditure has been increasing over the years, indicating a complete disregard of SCM policies and regulations within the Transport Department.

Our major concern about this irregular expenditure is that it could have been prevented if the leadership was serious about putting an end to it. Instead, there is no evidence showing that disciplinary steps were taken against officials who incurred irregular expenditure. There are just no justifiable reasons for a department to incur irregular expenditure of R17 billion. We urge the Hon. MEC to ensure that the accounting officer is held accountable as to why the irregular and wasteful expenditure occurred. Further, action must be taken against officials who are doing business with the state, and outstanding cases must be expedited by the Office of the Premier and forensic department.

Hon. MEC, the IFP wants to see the Department achieving a clean audit. This is non-negotiable.

SIU ON NEW JERSEY BARRIERS

The IFP demands that action must be taken against those involved on the R85 million New Jersey Barrier Wall project, which is being implemented to curb cross-border crime between South Africa and Mozambique, which was awarded to a joint venture between ISF Construction and Shula Construction in August 2018. We challenge the Hon. MEC to provide clarity on what progress has been made on this matter.

VACANT POSTS

For far too long, critical posts have been left vacant, hampering the effective functioning of the Department. The Department is currently sitting with 2 500 vacant posts in many sections. This process of filling these vacant posts must be expedited. These posts should be immediately filled with competent people. As with all other posts, the IFP strongly opposes cadre deployment and nepotism. We urge the Hon. MEC to ensure that this process is expedited.

ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE

We welcome the increase in the Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant. The PRMG sees an increase of R789.799 million, R607.161 million, and R433.049 million, over the 2022/23 MTEF, but we are concerned about the failure of the Department to spend this Grant. In 2019/20, the Department underspent on transport infrastructure by R1.64 billion, and again in the previous year the Department underspent the budget by R265.94 million on transport infrastructure, due to delays in infrastructure projects; yet we have witnessed many violent protests around the province by communities demanding road infrastructure. While we commend the Department on undertaking many road upgrades, we are concerned that nothing has been said about road R612 from Park Rynie to Highflats, which is full of potholes. Further, nothing has been said about the incomplete Ingubevu Bridge in uMsinga and the Ogunjini Bridge worth R38 million in P713 in Ndwedwe. The IFP would like to know from the Hon. MEC when these bridges will be completed? We further appreciate that the MEC announced last month that they will do away with low lying bridges, which have proven to be a danger to communities.

EXPANDED PUBLIC WORKS PROGRAMME (EPWP) AND APP

We welcome the allocation of R68.283 million for EPWP Integrated Grant for Provinces. But considering that there is a high rate of unemployment in the country, the IFP is concerned about the decrease in numbers of young people to be employed under the Vukayibambe Routine Road Maintenance Programme, where in this financial year, only 2 917 young people will be employed – compared to 5 600 young people that were employed in various district municipalities throughout the province in the 2021/22 financial year. We are against the decrease of job creation under the EPWP. It is concerning that the Department, under the Transport Infrastructure Programme, is not planning to construct even a single public transport facility.

The IFP believes in women empowerment and the empowerment of SMMES. Railway transport occupies a significant role in the transport system of a country because the development of trade, industry and commerce of a country largely depend on the development of railways, therefore we note that the Department is planning to develop a number of railway lines in the province. The IFP welcomes that decision but it is concerned that the railways require a large investment of capital. The cost of construction, maintenance and overhead expenses are very high, as compared to other modes of transport. Moreover, the investments are specific and immobile. If the traffic is not sufficient, the investments may mean wastage of huge resources. We call upon the Hon. MEC to present a detailed plan, with clear time frames, on how she intends to address all challenges mentioned above and why there is such reductions.

ROAD ACCIDENTS AND PERMITS

The IFP is concerned about road carnage. The reduced targets on issues relating to law enforcement are worrying, as we are still grappling with high numbers of road accidents and there is a dire need to ensure that traffic officers are working 24/7 on our roads.

We therefore urge the Hon. MEC to fulfil the promise she made that as the Department they will redouble their efforts to ensure that the proposed interventions to curb road deaths – including the implementation of the AARTO Act and demerit point system – are carried out. We also call for 24-hour traffic police visibility on our roads. It is sad to note that RTI officials have been demoralised due to not having uniforms and equipment to effectively execute their work.

We implore the Department to provide clear time frames as to when uniforms for officials will be issued. It has been seven years and this is unacceptable. Further, the issuing of operating licenses must be expedited and more action is needed to eradicate taxi violence over routes.

CORRUPTION

We urge the Hon. MEC to ensure that corruption is eradicated in the issuing of learners and drivers’ licences. This will eradicate unnecessary road carnage. Corruption must be eradicated, even from the RTI. Corrupt traffic police officers must be reported and arrested. By accepting bribes, they are contributing to road accidents.

COVID-19

We urge the Hon. MEC to continue encouraging people to adhere to Covid-19 regulations. The transport industry must also play its own role by ensuring that people wear masks when boarding their taxis and buses.

I thank you.

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