Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Members of the Executive, Honourable members, officials and dignitaries – I humbly greet you today.
Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance acknowledges the role the Department of Roads and Public Works is playing in creating job opportunities for the thousands of unemployed through its different employment programmes as well as contributing to skills attainment to certain categories of job seekers.
Honourable Speaker, the budget for the maintenance of roads has decreased from R1,1 billion in 2012/13 to R900 million in 2013/14. The cut in the budget has a negative impact in creating economic empowerment and alleviating poverty. Honourable Speaker, there is an accumulated backlog of over R13 billion for maintenance and R25 billion for upgrades and new infrastructure, with the maintenance backlog continuing to grow by approximately R0.5 billion to R1 billion per annum. It is foreseen that it will take almost 34 years to address this problem. It is inexplicable, that in the light of such a huge backlog in road rehabilitation, that a cut in the budget of this specific programme has not vehemently been challenged. Honourable Speaker, this backlog in maintenance has been compounded by flood damages at almost R296 million , with the Department only able to contribute R1.1 million towards the reconstruction of 4 bridges that were washed away in Port St Johns and Nyandeni. I cannot for one moment picture the discomfort and frustration experienced by those that have to use these bridges on a daily basis and yet there are no funds to bring the necessary relief.
Honourable Speaker, beautiful schools are being built in our rural areas through the Asidi programme. Unfortunately, these beautiful institutions are bound to become white elephants because learner enrolment is declining and teacher retentions are not very encouraging. Why then will you ask am I alluding to these negatives? The reason is obvious – the inaccessibility of roads and the low maintenance thereof are forcing our learners and teachers to migrate to other areas where they have access to quality education. Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance is appealing to the MEC responsible for Roads and Public Works to properly quantify the road infrastructure backlog and to prioritise the refurbishment and rehabilitation of those roads leading to public institutions.
Honourable Speaker, the purpose of existence of the Department of Roads and Public works is to provide infrastructure in order to stimulate socio-economic growth and development in the province. The Department has been maintaining existing government buildings without knowing exactly how many vacant sites, commercial sites, disused and derelict buildings and land belongs to the Provincial Public Works. Honourable Speaker, besides not having an updated asset register, the Department of Public works also have 1466 vacant properties of which of which some have been vandalised to such an extent that it is beyond repair. Honourable Speaker, huge amounts are being paid to security companies to safeguard these unutilised buildings, but government buildings such as Amathole Sun, are regularly been vandalised or set alight. Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance wants to be informed as to why such a large number of buildings are unoccupied and why income cannot be generated from the leasing of such buildings. This income can be used to supplement the shortfall on the maintenance budget for client Departments or on rental and Tax and Rates payments for all government buildings or use that additional income to pay insurance on buildings owned by the Department. Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance is of the opinion that these vacant properties should be generating income – if not, they should be utilised for the benefit of community development or disposed of at market related prices. Honourable Speaker, it is incumbent upon the Department to provide this house with an audit of unused buildings in order for in loco inspection by oversight committees for the purposes of recommendations for specific action plans.
Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance is also deeply concerned that the Department of Public works is permitting government officials to occupy state owned houses without paying any rentals, and if they so intermittently do, their contributions are below market value. This is a clear case of abuse. If these officials refuse to pay rentals at market prices they must be evicted without delay. The Democratic Alliance will be requesting that the Department undertakes an audit and to ascertain the number of officials occupying these state owned buildings as well as how much potential rental revenue has not been paid, as well as an action plan as to how these monies will be recovered.
Honourable Speaker, the Honourable MEC of the Department must explain to this house how their project managers monitor projects when some of the Project managers do not even know where these projects are located. I am baffled by the fact that highly paid officials in charge of projects, and who must interact with the communities, oversee implementation of the project and to report to his or her superiors, has not set foot at the location of the project – an example is the Nkonkobe project in Victoria Hospital. This is unacceptable and there should be consequences.
Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance is reasonably satisfied with the implementation of infrastructure Delivery Programmes with regard to new work and assistance given to the Departments of Education and Health, with special reference to the eradication of mud and unsafe structures, the construction of Early Childhood Development Centres and the Construction of Learner Assessment centres.
Honourable Speaker, in conclusion, the Democratic Alliance commends the Department of Roads and Public works for having had the best expanded Public Works Programme in the country for the 2012/13 financial year, thereby creating more employment opportunities than anticipated.
The Democratic Alliance do not support the budget for reasons already stated.
I thank you.