PROVINCE NOT BUDGETING FOR EMERGENCY ROAD REPAIRS WILL AFFECT JOBS

The Eastern Cape Department of Roads has not budgeted for emergency road repairs caused by flooding.

During my reply to the 2010/11 Annual report debate on Roads and Public Works in the legislature today, I highlighted this issue.

This problem was told to me by officials of the roads department when I raised the issue at a preceding portfolio committee meeting.

Proper road maintenance and budgeting is imperative if our road network and jobs are to survive.

Recently the DA highlighted the state of the roads leading from Sundays River Valley to the harbours.

These roads are used by trucks carrying citrus for export: a revenue worth R1,5 billion to the province annually.

Due to the deterioration of these roads it is estimated that only 260 000 tons or 60% of the yield of citrus will be exported this year.

As the citrus season is only six months long such a loss has dire financial consequences for the citrus- and related industries.

This will have an immediate knock-on effect on further job losses, something this province can ill afford.

Furthermore, Sundays River Valley only gets R3,9 million next year to repair gravel roads: a disgrace given that the valley is a R1,5 billion citrus money spinner.

Other industries such as the tourism and dairy industries have been left stranded because clients and deliveries could not take place due to damaged roads.

I have stated that should further job losses be caused where lack of road maintenance played a part, the blame must be shouldered by the MEC for Roads and her department.

In another example the road from Alicedale to the N2 was given to a Durban contractor in October last year.

R25 million later the condition of the road is deteriorating. As no maintenance contract was inserted into the agreement, the province has to pay additional costs to repair a new road.

On behalf of the DA In the Eastern Cape I have suggested the following quick wins that must be implemented to improve this dire situation:

• There needs to be sufficient, focussed budgeting for damage caused by floods and other weather perils.

• The MEC, Thandiswa Marawu, needs to be more pro-active in sourcing emergency funding from parliament.

• The money spinner and job creator roads like the Sundays River Valley roads must be maintained on a sustained basis so that these industries do not collapse.

• There needs to be a shift away from budgeting according to a “model” to a system of efficient reprioritisation when needed.

• The use of competent contractors and legal staff to ensure maintenance clauses are inserted into construction projects to prevent long term maintenance costs that would be incurred as is now happening.

• Finally there needs to be a joint team from Transport and Roads departments to facilitate a shift of transport of freight from road to rail.

If this can be achieved quickly, the life span of our roads and road maintenance costs will decrease substantially leaving budgeted money for other developmental priorities.