The Eastern Cape Department of Roads is seriously failing the province in four main areas.
Firstly, the negligible increase of the roads budget from R1,636 billion to R 1,668 billion, a mere R4,7 million increase is in real terms a nil percentage increase over the last financial year.
Secondly, the roads maintenance budget has decreased from R743 million last year to R735 million.
Thirdly, the department is unable to upgrade and extend road projects of low kilometres. This is particularly in the case of hospital access roads, which is one of the department’s main anchor projects.
The Sulenkama Hospital road project in Qumbu of 25 kilometres was built from August 2006 to completion in June 2010. This small yet vital access road took four years to complete.
The Greenville Hospital road project in Mbizana of 13 kilometres is planned for commencement in May 2012 with completion in March 2014. It is problematic when a small stretch of road like this takes nearly two years to complete.
The fourth area of concern is the lack of information of the S’hamba Sonke national pothole repair project for the province.
Although this project is the child of the National Department of Transport, the project is about provincial road maintenance.
Therefore it is surprising that the MEC for Roads and Public Works in the province did not mention this R6 billion funded project in her budget speech earlier this year. The Eastern Cape has been allocated R1 billion for this year towards contractor development and job creation.
In order to improve road delivery in the province innovative ways to fund projects such as public/private partnerships is the way to go.
The public needs to be continually appraised on the development and progress of S’hamba Sonke project, with particular emphasis on information as to how communities can access employment through this programme.
Innovative ways of surfacing roads such as concrete and stone paving on certain roads can also unlock employment for communities living alongside these roads with ongoing maintenance projects.
I will in the months ahead at each meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Roads be asking the Head of Department for a report on what progress is being made with each of these four areas to better deliver road development in the province.