Speech notes: Annual report 2014/15, Roads and Public Works

An efficient road network is the point of departure in stimulating economic growth and achieving national development.

  • DRPW suffers from a culture of non-compliance.
  • Infrastructure Development will boost economic growth.
  • The Department must be held to account.

Honourable speaker, honourable premier, honourable members and guests.

We must keep in mind that the aim of the Department of Roads and Public Works is to provide and manage the provincial roads network and the building infrastructure as well as to drive the implementation of the EPWP. We have to ask ourselves, what is our role as the legislature, as a portfolio committee and as members of the Legislature? Why are we here? We tabled the half yearly report and we tabled the annual report of Department. We all read the reports we all know what it says. The findings and recommendations are reoccurring and the concerns are the same as the year before this one and the same as the year before that.

The half yearly and annual report review is of vital importance as it is an indicator to determine whether the department is using the tax payer’s money in the most efficient and effective way possible and in doing so is achieving its objectives in terms of service delivery.

Honourable Speaker, according to the Auditor General, irregular expenditure of the Department was understated due to processes not being in place therefore the Auditor General is UNSURE if we are getting the best value for money.

The Auditor General stated further that the roads section is experiencing a lack of monitoring and risk assessment resulting in the Department exceeding their budget on engineering costs.

The Auditor General also stated that the Department suffers from a culture of non-compliance and fundamental internal control deficiencies.

Honourable Speaker, let us shortly recap the main issues in the DRPW:

  • There is an over-reliance on consultants by the DRPW. The Auditor General stated that even they are unable to speak to the Department directly; they have to speak to consultants.
  • The DRPW has underspent in its core programmes.
  • There are significant challenges and rampant irregularities in the supply chain management processes.
  • There is a lack of proper planning resulting in the delay of projects.
  • The department does not have an approved organogram and an incomplete organisational structure, this result in instability within the department and rampant loss of skilled personnel.
  • Internal audit recommendations are not implemented.
  • The internal controls of the Department are weak.
  • The performance rate of the department against predetermined objectives is only 57%

Yet, nobody seems shocked to listen to this list of inefficiencies and challenges of the Department, nobody seems particularly outraged by it, even though it is highly irregular and even though it is utterly inacceptable

Honourable Speaker, why is that? Is it because we already knew all of the above? Why do we already know all of this? Because the findings were the same as last year, honourable speaker. Year in and year out, we see the same findings and make the same recommendations. Can we as the portfolio committee and members of the legislature say that, yes, we know what the issues and problems are, we have made recommendations on how to circumvent the problems it is now up to the department to implement it, is that enough? No, Honourable Speaker it is just not enough.

We make recommendations to the department, yet, nothing changes. Either because recommendations are not being implemented or because there are no consequences for not implementing the recommendations, there are no consequences for failing to account, because there are no consequences. Period.

Why is that? Honourable Speaker, I believe it is time that we as the Legislature realise that either we are not being taken seriously by the Department or that the Department simply does not have the capacity to do what is required to deliver or both.

In terms of the Constitution of South Africa, the Provincial Government is accountable to the Legislature. This accountability function of the Legislature is carried out through the Portfolio Committees. Committees oversee Government Departments and call MECs and departmental officials to account. MPLs have to ensure that the money allocated is spent wisely and that there is no wastage or corruption.

Honourable speaker, if the departments fail, we fail. If we fail, the departments fail.

It is difficult to accept that the roads programme has underspent and only spent 36% of their budget was spent thus far, (last year it was 37%), when the roads in this province are in the state that it is. The purpose of this programme is supposed to be to provide a balanced and equitable provincial road network and its main functions must be the upgrading of surfaced roads as well as the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of roads, causeways and bridges.

The biggest loser is once again the roads programme as the most significant underspending occurred in this programme, mainly due to the under spending in terms of the Provincial Roads Maintenance Grant which is a conditional grant with spending levels at a mere 37.4%. (Last year it was 36%). Honourable speaker, the provincial roads maintenance grant has the objective of supplementing provincial investments for preventative, routine and emergency maintenance and road rehabilitation of provincial road networks. It used to implement and maintain road asset management systems

The festive season is upon us. All of us know that when a loved one or family member will be on the road heading to their holiday destination we pray that they arrive safely. We tell them to be careful; we ask them to check in with us regularly because we know that being on the roads in South Africa is one of the most dangerous places to be. Every one of us knows that when we get in a car there is a chance that we might not arrive out our destinations.

We implement the Arrive Alive Campaign every year. I visited the website. They are so kind as to offer a list of road per province which are considered to be hazardous. Number one on the list, the road between King Williams Town and Umtata – 297 fatalities over a distance of 388km.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has released its annual report for the year 2014 to 2015, showing that more than 4,500 people died on South African roads during this period.

Poor road conditions play a major role in deaths and accidents on our roads. We have to fix our roads, but we are not spending our budgets on road repairs and maintenance. Yet, when the public wants to know, why and when roads will be attended to the answer is always inadequate funding, budget constraints, no money”… Honourable Speaker, on whose heads will fatalities and accidents on our roads be if the money to repair our roads are not spent?

The roads maintenance contracts were again, the same as last year, only awarded 8 months into the financial year. Although the contracts have now been awarded, the programme will now focus on re-gravelling rather than routine maintenance.

In light of the above, the performance of the roads programme, the core programme of this Department is utterly unacceptable, honourable speaker.

Honourable speaker, the DRPW is supposed to be the infrastructure nerve centre of the Eastern Cape, we must urgently start to acknowledge the importance of infrastructure in general and the quality of a good roads network in economic growth.

Research by the University of Cape Town indicates that the relationship between infrastructure and economic growth is one of the most important economic topics in both academic and policy circles. The Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative – South Africa (ASGI-SA) has identified inadequate infrastructure as one of the six most important constraints to growth in South Africa.

Inadequate infrastructure creates a number of costs for .the public, who may have to develop contingency plans against infrastructure failure or even build infrastructure themselves. Inadequate transport infrastructure, for example, incurs potentially massive costs for businesses who must seek alternative means of transport goods. A good example of this can be found in the Sunday’s River Valley Municipality, where once again the Sunday’s River Valley’s Citrus industry proved to be the largest contributor to the economy of the Eastern Cape, yet their road network is falling apart and it has a serious negative effect on their produce that must be exported. The Dairy Farmers are experiencing massive constraints and has to struggle on a daily basis to get their milk tankers from point A to point B.

It is estimated that we should double our investment in infra­structure. African nations at pres­ent invest about 2-3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in infrastructure. By contrast, China invests about 9 percent of its GDP in infrastructure projects.

When you put a road through a rural area, you bring them close to employment options, markets and better healthcare. Infrastructure is the key to wiping out poverty.

Honourable speaker, looking at the current trend of expenditure of the department of Roads and Public works in general, only 44% of its annual budget has been spent

Honourable speaker, it is clear, this department has a long way to go to reach its objectives. If we can stabalise this Department it will have a knock-on effect on other Departments as well. If this Department can truly operate as an infrastructure nerve centre we will be able to increase economic growth and reduce poverty. If this Department can address the backlog on roads infrastructure, the Eastern Cape will have taken a massive step to becoming prosperous and we would be able to say that we fulfilled our duty to the people we represent.

If we want to achieve this, simply making recommendations to the Department is just not enough. We have a duty and a responsibility to hold the Departments to account, we must appoint the right people in the right positions, if people are not performing, heads must roll, from entry level to senior managers to MEC’s. We have a duty to the public, they have entrusted us with the obligation to make sure the Departments perform, let us not disappoint them.

Vicky Knoetze, Shadow MEC for Roads and Public Works 

 

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