Hon. S Moodley, IFP MPL
20 April 2023
The Budget allocated to the Department of Transport for the 2023/2024 Financial Year, which is R13 billion, is welcomed as during 2022/2023, the Department was allocated R12.474 billion.
As the IFP, we would like to caution the Hon. MEC that this is not the budget for campaigning for the 2024 General Elections, but it is for the provision of services to the people. Further, this is not the budget for incompetent contractors who are awarded tenders to build roads and thereafter abandon them without completing the job as per tender specifications. This budget is not for wasteful, unauthorised and irregular expenditure.
The IFP will closely monitor the spending patterns of the Department when it comes to service delivery. Hon. MEC, this is not your money, nor the ANC government’s money, but the taxpayers’ money. You must spend it wisely and with a clear conscience.
Hon. Chairperson, it is mindboggling that the KZN Transport Department, during 2021/2022 Financial Year, had an employee who was on suspension for 520 days. This was revealed in the Public Service Commission (PSC) Quarterly Report released last month. We want to know: how much has been spent by the Department on this employee alone? What measures are in place to ensure that disciplinary processes are expedited? This is a clear indication that an inept attitude and incompetence by those in charge of the KZN Department of Transport cannot be ruled out. This is a shame.
THE 20232/24 BUDGET ALLOCATION
The Department of Transport is in shambles, and it is leaderless.
As we speak, this Department will surrender R200 million towards the provincial reprioritisation exercise. The funds are available for surrender due to current slow spending on various road rehabilitation projects related to the April 2022 floods, for which the Department had undertaken internal reprioritisation. Many roads are in a bad state but the Department was allocated R780 million to build roads that were flooded during 2019/20, and in 2022.
Again, last year, the same Department lost R47.691 million, which had to be reallocated to other provinces, as the Department 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 have no roads at all, and many roads are in bad state. If the Department fails to spend its Budget, the MEC and the HOD must be held accountable because it will show that they have failed dismally in their allotted duties and that they lack leadership skills. Further, we are concerned about the failure by the Department to address the elephant in the room, which is unauthorised expenditure: during the Financial Years 2020/21, the unauthorised expenditure was R1.530 million, and in 2021/22 it was R1.646 million.
We are concerned about the R266.430 million for 2023/2024 Financial Year towards scholar transport, compared to the R459.143 million for 2022/23 Financial Year. We have noted that there 402 schools that will benefit from scholar transport during the 2023/2024, compared to 397 during the 2022/2023 Financial Year. This is not enough, as there are many schools that are still without scholar transport and those with scholar transport are faced with overloading. The issue of overloading must be addressed before accidents happen.
We implore the Department of Transport to address the elephant in the room.
The unending challenges with regards to 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 might 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.
During the 2021/2022 Budget Speech, former MEC for Transport, Hon. Peggy Nkonyeni, stated that the Department of Transport planned to build new 50 kilometres of gravel road, construct nine vehicle bridges, build four pedestrian bridges and maintain 1 800 000 square metres of the current existing infrastructure. This is in addition to the already existing 8 602 kilometres of paved provincial road network and 25 000 kilometres of gravel road network throughout the province.
Again, in her 2022/23 Budget Speech, she stated that they plan to build 50 kilometres of gravel road, build 10 vehicle bridges, two pedestrian bridges and maintain 1 800 000 square metres of the current existing infrastructure. This is an addition to the already existing 8 668 kilometres of the paved provincial road network and 25 404 kilometres of gravel road network throughout the province.
This was a copy-and-paste from previous speeches and nothing has happened on the ground. The ANC is in trouble.
The Department has no plan to address road infrastructure challenges, but it spends time on lip service without any tangible solutions. The Department of Transport is known for starting projects and leaving them incomplete. Nothing has been said about road projects implemented by the Department of Transport in Ubuhlebezwe Local Municipality, which have been characterised by challenges and slow progress. This includes P73, P112, and P113, which have been under construction for some years but are not yet completed. Construction of road P73 in Hlokozi area started in 2010, but only 7.7 kilometres have been constructed, instead of 22.7 kilometres. Again, road P112 known as Nomakhele, which is 14 kilometres, was budgeted for R10.724 million but now the budget has increased to R202.38 million. The project duration plan was six years.
Nothing has been said about the dilapidated bridges in uMzumbe that were affected by floods in 2008, which are Kokoloshe, Mhlabashane and Dabedabe. Nothing has been said about bad roads and bridges in uMsinga, which are Ingcuba bridge in Ward 13, R33 Main Road Tugela Ferry Town to kwaKopi, and D1274 Road, which needs to be rehabilitated from gravel road to tar road.
Delivering her State of the Province Address, Premier Hon. Nomusa Dube- Ncube said, “We are targeting through the Department of Transport to set aside R2,5 billion to fix this problem (potholes) through our potholes patching and road rehabilitation programme. The province has a 34 200km declared road network, including both blacktop and gravel roads and as a direct response to the challenge of potholes and aging infrastructure, over the next three years, government is going to prioritise the maintenance of infrastructure”.
Where is the money going to come from?
What has been done by the joint task team comprised of the Department of Transport, Treasury and COGTA to assess the extent of the work that needs to be done in addressing potholes, as announced by former MEC for Transport, Hon. Peggy Nkonyeni, during the 2021/2022 Budget Speech? Further, Hon. Nkonyeni told us about R615 million which forms part of the MOU between the Department of Transport and the IDT to improve service delivery, but one wonders where this R615 million was spent, as roads are in bad state even today?
Again, in the 2022/23 Financial Year, R34 million was allocated for the implementation of a pothole-patching cooperatives model within uMsunduzi Municipality? What happened to this money, as we are still driving on roads full of potholes? The MEC must account for all these millions that were announced by his predecessor.
We welcome the increase in the Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant (PRMG).
The PRMG sees an increase of R760.1million 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.
When the former KZN MEC for Transport, Peggy Nkonyeni, tabled the Department’s R12.4-billion Budget for the 2022/23 Financial Year in the Legislature on 5 May 2022, she said: “During the State of the Province Address, the Premier gave us marching orders and important tasks to be undertaken. Amongst those is to conduct investigations of all the lower-level structures to assess their safety. This is in response to an outcry in many parts of the province where people were affected, due to heavy rains, water floods above the bridge level.” We want to know what progress has been made in this regard, as we have witnessed an incident in Peace Valley here in Pietermaritzburg, where a girl was swept away when trying to cross a low-lying bridge.
We welcome the appointment of a new CFO, Mr Thabani Nkosi. The failure by the Department to fill vacant posts reflects a sad state of affairs in the KZN Department of Transport. Vacant posts must be filled without any further delay. We have observed that the Department is failing to finalise the organogram and structure of the Department to finalise critical posts in the Department.
We are concerned about the failure by the Department to provide RTI officers with uniforms. Further, we reiterate our call for the deployment of traffic police 24/7 on our roads to address road accidents. We must relieve RTI officers from being clerks and messengers, as there are many unemployed people sitting at home who can perform these duties.
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. It 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.
EXPANDED PUBLIC WORKS PROGRAMME (EPWP) AND APP
We want to caution the Hon. MEC that poverty alleviation programmes such as EPWP, Vukayibambe Routine Road Maintenance etc. are not only for ANC volunteers. The ANC has a tendency of using EPWP as its tool to garner votes during elections. As the 2024 General Election is upon us, the IFP will be all ears, and with our eyes wide open we will monitor the implementation of all poverty alleviation programmes.
The IFP supports the Budget.
I thank you.