TRANSPORT BUDGET RUNS OUT OF STEAM: DAILY DISPATCH

A BUS company providing transport mainly in the Transkei may suspend its services in five months due to a provincial government budget shortfall.

The money due to AB350 is despite the company being unable to account for funding already received from the transport department because it is not obliged to submit audited financial statements.

This emerged during the budget vote for the transport department tabled in the Bhisho legislature last week.

According to a transport portfolio committee report, the R57.4-million budget shortfall may result in the service being suspended by November.

“The department must, within 30 days, report to the committee regarding its attempts to get additional funding for AB350,” states the report.

The default comes as another budget shortfall is projected for scholar transport which was allocated R210-million, which is predicted to be exhausted by October.

“The department has budgeted to transport 55 000 learners whereas the demand is for 120 000 learners,” reads the report, adding both education and transport departments must resolve the impending crisis in scholar transport.

UDM’s Zukiswa Thabaneng said the reported R57.4-million shortfall was despite a lack of clarity over whether AB350 was a private or public entity.

“It is funded like Mayibuye Bus Corporation which reports on its funding from the department whereas AB350 does not account,” Thabaneng said.

COPE’s Nomfundo Jamjam said it was shocking the scholar transport budget was already near depletion.

“What is the [R210-million budget allocation] for if by October funds are exhausted? Don’t you budget for the financial year?”

The ANC’s Mxolisi Dimaza blamed the shortfalls on poor contract management and weak administration.

“The failure to properly manage its contracts will expose the department to litigation from possible breach of contracts and to financial losses.”

Dimaza added failure to budget properly could result in about 120 000 pupils dropping out.

The DA’s Dacre Haddon said October was when pupils needed scholar transport the most for end of year exams.

Transport MEC Thandiswa Marawu said funding for public transport in the former homelands was a challenge.

“We are convinced institutions like Mayibuye and AB350 should be prioritised by national government in line with the government’s priority on rural development.”

On the scholar transport, Marawu said: “The department is constantly liaising with education and the provincial treasury to address this issue.” — mayibongwem@dispatch.co.za