DEBATE ON TRANSPORT

BY
Hon. S Moodley, MPL, KZN Legislature

20 MAY 2021

 

Hon Chairperson,

I would like to commence my debate by paying tribute to one of our dedicated RTI official Mr Naik who sadly passed away in an accident. I record the IFP’s heartfelt condolences to his family and colleagues at the RTI and pray that his soul rests in God’s eternal peace.

The IFP supports the R11.6 billion budget allocation for the 2021/22 financial year. Having said that, we must also record our concern that the budget cuts will affect the performance of the department in respect of filling of 1 389 vacant posts, road maintenance and construction projects and some planned projects will have to be deferred to a later stage. This will negatively impact service delivery and the functioning of the Department as a whole.

We also wish to highlight the following issues that warrant immediate attention.

The IFP for years is calling for action against irregular expenditure by the Department but nothing seems to change. The Department is not willing to address the elephant in the room which is irregular expenditure and poor audit report. This Department’s finances have been in shambles. According to the findings, by the AG’s Report for 2019/20 financial year, the Department received a Qualified Audit Opinion and incurred irregular expenditure amounting to R17.84 billion as it failed to follow proper tender procedures. This Department also underspent R1.64 billion on its budget, the highest underspending ever recorded in the department due to the delays in transport infrastructure. This is totally unacceptable. Further, during the 2018/19 financial year this Department incurred R14.11 billion on irregular expenditure. 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
R17.84 billion. We want heads to roll on this matter.

Whilst we commend the Acting HOD on her sterling job, there is no excuse for incompetence. Without a permanent HOD Department, this affects the effective functioning of the department and could be one of the reasons the department is underperforming because if someone is acting, they cannot take decisions they want because they are acting. The IFP demands that a permanent HOD must be appointed immediately.

Further, we urge the Hon Premier, Sihle Zikalala to put aside “friendship and comradeship” and deal decisively with the MEC for Transport by holding her accountable for the failure to bring much needed change in the Department of Transport. If the Premier treats his Cabinet MEC’s with kid gloves just because they are his comrades, we will continue to see what is happening in the Department of Transport. Hon Premier, I urge you, your time is now to act against the Department of Transport. It is up to the Hon MEC whether to shape up or ship out. Time for complacency is over. It must be made mandatory that the Department of Transport get a clean audit in this financial year.

The IFP believes that at all times, the officials should keep in mind the Batho Pele principles, including making sure there is always value for money. It has been proven time and again that service delivery cannot happen without sound financial management. The Auditor-General’s findings should be a massive wake-up call to our Provincial government. It is time for MEC to be held accountable for poor performance. We will certainly do everything in our power to ensure that the people of KZN get the service delivery they deserve.

ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE & INCOMPETENCE

The IFP notes that the Department of Transport focuses on rural infrastructure development. While IFP notes the progress made in building roads and bridges in the Province, it believes that more still needs to be done. Many people in rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal still have to use untarred roads. Some people in the rural areas have to walk long distances to access public transport. Many rural roads are still untarred and many others are in a state of disrepair, full of potholes like in Howick where residents have taken a decision to fix potholes themselves. This is a shame and this exposes incompetence of uMngeni Local Municipality. Further, a few days back, taxi drivers in Nkandla staged a protest where they raised their frustration about poor roads which the department have failed to repair. This is yet another indictment on the Department. The roads in Nkandla and Howick must be fixed.

It has been noted with grave concern that Ambulances cannot even travel to certain areas as the terrain is so bad. Rainy conditions exacerbate the terrible condition of the roads. Will the Department take accountability if a patient dies due to an ambulance not reaching him or her timeously or at all because the Department failed to make sure the roads were in the condition that citizens of this province deserve?

We have mentioned on several occasions that the Department fails dismally to spend money on ensuring the entrances to schools, police stations and clinics is accessible and in a good condition. What good are any of these places if people cannot access it as the Department does not re-gravel the roads leading into these places. This dire situation must be addressed and the Department needs to ensure that no entrance to schools and other important entities is made inaccessible due to the Department’s failure.

The IFP urges the Hon MEC to conduct an audit of all roads – per district
– that need urgent attention and repair. This will assist the Department in forming a clear picture of how many rural roads in the Province are in bad state. This will further ensure that funds are spent on existing roads that need urgent attention. Furthermore, the Department must allow municipalities to be fully involved in the issue of road construction, as they are the ones that know which roads need urgent attention.

The IFP is concerned about the tenders for road infrastructure which are awarded to incompetent contractors. As we speak non-performance of contractors on site resulted in the termination of 25 contracts in the financial year, affecting construction of bridges and road upgrades contracts and the Department has not finalized the contracts which were declared irregular by the AG. Incompetence also contributes significantly to violent service delivery protests. The question that needs to be asked is how do these contractors were awarded tenders in the first place? This indicates that there is collusion between corrupt officials and these contractors. Without any fear the IFP is against the appointment of incompetent contractors as they delay protects. The IFP wants contractors with impeccable track records to be awarded tenders for road infrastructure. Secondly, corrupt officials who are colluding with incompetent contractors must be flushed out. The extent to which incompetence is affecting the delivery of services to our communities and creating an atmosphere for corruption to thrive needs to be promptly addressed if confidence in public institutions is to be restored.

EPWP

We welcome the allocation of R73.3 million for EPWP Grant for the creation of jobs. While we welcome it, we are concerned that in 2020/21 the Department state that under Vukayibambe Routine Road Maintenance Programme about 3 200 youth employed and again in 2021/22 on the same programme the Department is telling us that 3 200 youth employment work opportunities will be created. Why is there no increase in the number of job opportunities allocated to the youth? Is the department telling us that 3 200 job opportunities are enough to address youth unemployment? More youth must be employed in this programme. Once they are employed, they must be empowered with necessary skills to start their own businesses.

ROAD ACCIDENTS AND RTI

Similarly on the road, the level of negligence, the skills of our drivers – those people who hold licenses – brings to question how they got them in the first place. The level of disregard for human life is quite astounding.

The IFP is of the view that disregard of the rules of the road will not end if we still have an understaffed RTI. Vacant posts in the RTI are crippling this entity and it is not performing to its fullest. We urge the Hon MEC to also prioritize the appointment of staff in the RTI from the pool of critical vacant posts in the Department that are planned to be filled.

The IFP once again reiterates its call for the deployment of traffic officers on our roads 24/7 in order to instill discipline on our roads. Further, we commend the pilot project of 20 Personal Office Devices which will minimize human contact when traffic officers are conducting roadblocks. This project must be fast-tracked and rolled out across the province.

Hon. MEC, we all know that uniforms give officials a sense of identity and belonging. It instills in them an ethos of pride. It is therefore shocking and distressing to note that uniforms have not been supplied to RTI officials for over three years.

This situation cannot be allowed to continue. We urge you Hon. MEC to ensure that uniforms are provided without any further delays. The RTI needs to be recognized as a vital partner in Road Traffic Safety and provision of uniforms will serve to afford officials the motivation which many have lost due to a litany of problems that plagues the RTI.

CORRUPTION

We urge the Hon. MEC to ensure that corruption is eradicated in the issuing of learner’s and drivers’ licenses. This will eradicate unnecessary road carnage. Corruption must be eradicated, even from within the RTI.

Corrupt traffic police officers must be reported and arrested. By accepting bribes, they are contributing to road accidents.

If the department is serious about reducing fatalities on our roads, it is imperative that the budget for the RTI is increased to facilitate 24-hour vigilance and patrol. Motorists need to see RTI officials patrolling and be wary of breaking road rules.

LEARNER TRANSPORT

We note that R456.863 is allocated for learner transport. This will see 58 908 learners from 332 schools being transported. Although this amount has been allocated, the IFP feels that this is not enough. I was impressed by the MEC`s announcement that sixty pedestrian bridges are to be built over the next three years. We will be monitoring this very closely.

TAXI VIOLENCE

This is the area where the Department has failed dismally to address and end the violence that permeates the beleaguered taxi industry. The provincial Department of Transport and police seem to be struggling to quell taxi violence in the province as killings continue unabated. Many lives have been lost due to taxi violence. The IFP once again implores the Hon MEC to take a stand in this burning issue and deal decisively with taxi violence. This bloodbath must stop now.

SMME DEVELOPMENT

The IFP urges the Hon. MEC to ensure that Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act is enforced in his Department. The Hon. MEC must also ensure that contractors are paid on time, within the 30-day period.

COVID-19

We all have witnessed the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in all sectors. As it has been reported that we might experience a third wave of Covid-19, we urge the transport industry in particular the public transport sector to enforce the wearing of masks and continue with the process of sanitizing. We also urge traffic police and all law enforcement to continue to monitor that these measures are being carried out and adhered to at all times.

I thank you.