Honourable Premier and Members of the Executive,
Let me first take this opportunity in recording our congratulations to Hon Kaunda for being re-appointed as MEC of Transport. We acknowledge the work done by the MEC in the past and thank him for his sterling leadership but much remains to be done in this portfolio.
The IFP welcomes the budget allocation of R10.8 billion for 2019/20 financial year including the Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant of R1.9 billion.
It is a well-known fact that Roads and Transport department plays a pivotal role. We therefore wish to highlight the following issues that warrant immediate attention.
INFRASTRUCTURE & ACCESS ROAD
In an effort to improve the business environment, Government must set out to make the province of KwaZulu-Natal more attractive by enhancing road infrastructure development.
Hon MEC the IFP is concerned about the lack of progress on the road works on the N2 over the Umhlali river bridge. To date there has been no feedbacks or reasons for the complete lack of work undertaken on this section of the northbound lanes.
Three and a half years after the N2 was narrowed to a single lane at the Umhlali River and the Umvoti River for upgrades, the project still remains incomplete. Work originally began in February 2016 but construction stopped when the main contractor, Nyoni Projects, was liquidated after having been paid R15, 5 million by SANRAL. It is no secret that lucrative government tenders go to politically connected individuals with little or no experience in the required field of expertise. There are many botched projects that have eroded the ratepayers money as people who are given these tasks guzzles funds and never complete the job. We want the MEC to implement a transparent system of tenders that will ensure that funding allocated to the Department fulfils its intended purposes accordingly and not even a cent land on wrong hands.
The MEC spoke about Road D1841 is located in the Umkhanyakude District Municipality. Currently, this road is being upgraded from gravel to blacktop and it will assist the communities of Umkhanyakude by providing safe and all-weather access to local schools, clinics and police stations. The construction work of this road from Ndumo to Mbadleni started in 2017 but to date it remains incomplete. A few weeks ago, concerned citizens from Ndumo wrote to Ilanga newspaper raising their frustration about this road. They raised serious concerns about the incompetence of the contractor. They alleged that the construction work only takes place once a week then stops sometimes even for weeks without construction taking place. They further alleged that they have reported this to your Department Hon MEC but no action has been taken. As the IFP we urge the Hon MEC to institute an urgent investigation into this matter. We further urge that the Portfolio Committee on Transport must urgently conduct an oversight visits to this road and other projects under the Department of Transport.
The IFP notes that the Department of Transport under Operation KuShunquthuli and the African Renaissance Roads Upgrading Programmes focus on rural infrastructure development. But the IFP is concerned that many people in rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal still have to use untarred roads. Rural transport development has become one of the country’s main problems. Some in the rural areas have to walk long distances to access public transport. It is important for the KZN Department of Transport to focus on the improvement of mobility and access in rural areas. If gravel roads are not maintained properly the rain will eventually wash away the gravel and expose the rock bed. The solution lies in making our rural development work more effective,
ROAD TRAFFIC INSPECTORATE (RTI)
We also want to commend the MEC for employing a new Chief Director in the RTI.
As the IFP we would like to urge the MEC and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) to urgently finalise the implementation of a 24-hour shift system for traffic officers in the province, in an attempt to bring down the high death rate on the province’s roads.
In same breath, we would like to register our objection to a new policy by the department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), aimed at reducing the number of overtime hours that Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) officer may work. This will have damaging consequences, as officials will only be able to patrol roads for a certain period. Therefore, we need a system that will encourage that Officers are always visible on our roads 24 hours of the day.
This is because as we speak, the RTI is acutely short of the desired staff complement and resources. We would like to seek answers from the Hon MEC on when RTI officials can be expected to be visible on our roads. We need an update on what progress has been made in addressing this issue as he was in the process of writing a letter to the Minister of Public Service and Administration to exempt traffic officers from the directive.
Another burning issue is cadre deployment and nepotism in the RTI. This has resulted in the inspectorate being dysfunctional.
For far too long, critical posts have been left vacant, hampering the effective functioning of the department. These posts should be identified immediately and qualified candidates should be appointed to ensure that the job is effectively executed. As in all other posts, the IFP strongly opposes cadre deployment and nepotism. It simply makes no sense for these critical posts to remain vacant for longer especially against the backdrop of the dismal employment rate and the challenges faced by the department. We urge the MEC to fast track this process and ensure that these critical posts are filled without any further delays.
Bribes and corruption must be weeded out in the issuing of driver’s licences and within the Traffic Law-Enforcement officers in our roads. The MEC must ensure that traffic police accepting bribes are dismissed if found guilty. The department needs to deal with lawless elements in the RTI; those who are flouting our laws must be given severe jail sentences.
As the IFP we reiterate our call upon the KwaZulu-Natal’s MEC of Transport to urgently work on a plan with implementable measures to tackle corruption within the road traffic inspectorate in the province. The levels of graft, bribery, abuse of power, failure to act and dereliction of duty by officials in all ranks of law-enforcement are disturbing. The IFP calls for the removal of greedy and ethically compromised individuals and those who use the profession as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme.
Corrupt driving testing centres must be named and shamed. In addition, the MEC must address the issue of endless queues frustrate drivers trying to renew licences and applying for learners’ licences in driver training centres especially in Durban.
The KZN Provincial Government should deal with corruption head on, without fear, favour or prejudice. We believe that improving financial accountability and fighting corruption are essential for good governance. Good governance is a fundamental right in a democracy and it brings about transparency and accountability.
Exorbitant cost of licence fees.
It is common knowledge that the province is losing out on much-needed revenue as many motorists are going to provinces such as Gauteng and Mpumalanga for their licences due to the fees being too high in KZN. The department should urgently consider reducing the cost of licence fees so as to encourage more revenue to flow into our province. It is unacceptable to lose revenue to other provinces when we can take simple measures to reduce or bring fees in line with those provinces that we are currently losing revenue to.
SHOVA KALULA PROGRAMME
The IFP wish to raise a serious concern regarding the effectiveness of Shova Kalula programme that’s provides bicycles to people including learners. This project aimed to improve the mobility of South Africans through promoting bicycle transport use, especially amongst the most disadvantaged who currently had to walk long distances to get to school and work. Our main concern is that this programme does not solve the problem of lack of proper and safe scholar transport.
The Department cannot be so proud that it has addressed the issue of scholar transport. Bicycles do not protect leaners from inclement weather conditions, rape and mountainous areas. We are concerned about the specification of the bicycles, and if there was any monitoring to ensure that bicycles distributed all over the province reached the intended recipients.
Hon MEC, we seek answers on what happens to bicycles at the end of their working life? Who is responsible for maintaining the bicycles as poor learners found it difficult to maintain bicycles at their own expense.
In 2018 the MEC stated that they will in the new financial year distribute a further 2 400 bicycles, the question is where are those bicycles and which schools were beneficiaries to this programme?
We welcome the movement of the learner transport function from Education to Transport. In this province there are communities living on the farms and many learners walk long and dangerous distances to school with risk of attack or rape. Moreover, the modes of transport currently used still posed dangers to children. Rural learners must be prioritised in the provision of scholar transport.
The IFP believes that it is high time for KZN MEC of Transport, to devise a new comprehensive plan to address on-going taxi violence in the province. This call is being emphasized following the recent gun battle in Mandeni, north of Durban that resulted in six vehicles being torched recently.
Concrete solutions are needed to address the conflicts that permeate the taxi industry. There should be highly effective enforcement which will contribute to commuter safety as well as end the vicious cycle of violence in the industry. There is no place for trigger-happy and lawless elements who are responsible for destabilising the industry, putting the lives of all road users at risk.
The IFP reiterates its call for a taxi subsidy to be implemented. We believe that this subsidy will effectively address many of the current challenges that besets the taxi industry. It would also facilitate a greater level of accountability, transparency and help to reduce taxi violence which seems to be the order of the day in the industry. The IFP is of the view that the implementation of a taxi subsidy will help to restore dignity and order in the beleaguered industry which currently operates with little or no rules and this lawlessness has to date claimed numerous lives. We urge the Hon. MEC to look into this proposal with the urgency it deserves as the positive spin offs of this subsidy will help to counteract the negative elements that plagues the industry currently.
Earlier this year when the former Transport Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande released the road accident statistics KwaZulu-Natal recorded the highest number of road deaths in the country during the festive season where it recorded 267 crashes with 328 fatalities. We therefore urge the KZN MEC of Transport to fulfil his promise he 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 (Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences) Act and demerit point system – was carried out. We also emphasize the immediate implementation of the 24-hour traffic police visibility on our roads.
ACTION AGAINST INCOMPETENT CONTRACTORS
The Inkatha Freedom Party is concerned about the mediocre work by KwaZulu-Natal contractors who have dismally failed to complete projects on schedule and commensurate with good standards of quality. One example is the delays in construction of the long-awaited Port Shepstone Intermodal Facility which has left commuters and traders baffled over the state of the Port Shepstone bus rank which was meant to be converted into a temporary taxi rank. The initial plan was to overhaul the existing bus rank – at a cost of R10 million by the end of January 2019. However, this could not be done as the contractor has left the site due to alleged ‘technicalities. The IFP calls on government to blacklist all local and foreign contractors who abandon projects or who take too long to complete projects as well as those who fail to deliver a quality end product. Such delayed projects are costing the province billions of Rands, unnecessary expenditure which could be better used in worthier projects .to improve road safety in our province.
SMMEs are the engine of KwaZulu-Natal’s economy but quite a significant number of them are unable to sustain their operations. The IFP urges the Hon MEC to ensure that Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act is enforced. This policy ensures that subcontracting is a condition of tender aspect which requires that 30% of the value of contracts above R30 million must be subcontracted to an Exempted Micro Enterprise (EME) or Qualifying Small business Enterprise (QSE) and this policy is in line with the prescripts of Section 217 of the constitution. The Hon MEC must also ensure that contractors are paid on time with 30 days period. While the government want to build small businesses, it is also destroying them through late payment for their services. When a company is not paid for more than 30 days, it affects the business and family, and everything connected to it. The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) is clear that payment must be done in 30 days, and those who ignored this are guilty. What is lacking is accountability from the HODs in provincial government, yet they receive bonuses at the end of every year. These delays are jeopardizing the economy and leading to job losses.
I Thank You