EVERYTHING is not what it seems when one takes a closer look at the announcement in March last year that the Eastern Cape department of roads and public works (DRPW) had launched a three-year, R1.5-billion roads contractor development programme with the Coega Development Agency (CDA). At first it seemed contractors and other related service providers would be trained in construction, and maintenance of roads and bridges in the province by the CDA.

But, what it actually means is that the DRPW had appointed the CDA as road maintenance service provider. In the process the department has relinquished its budget and responsibility to a third party.

In the past smaller service providers were appointed to provide road maintenance in the province, creating jobs and spreading the work to businesses in rural areas, benefiting as many people as possible.

What has happened now is that all these smaller companies will have to re-register as service providers with the CDA. At this stage there are no guarantees that the original service providers will retain existing projects.

Early evidence suggests that up to 50% of the budget is now being spent on administration by both DRPW and the CDA because of the duplications of tasks.

The awarding of exorbitant commissions when appointing contractors is eroding away vast amounts of our provincial roads budget which will only lead to the deterioration of our already overloaded roads and further backlogs in maintenance.

I have asked the portfolio committee on roads to consider investigating the economics of giving this chunk of the budget to the CDA for road maintenance and for the department to come up with a report in that respect. I will also raise this issue in the legislature this week, when the departmental budgets are debated in the house.

Pine Pienaar

Shadow MEC for Roads and Public Works