Speech Notes: Department of Roads and Public Works Annual Report and Financial Oversight Debate

INNOVATION IS THE KEY TO UNLOCKING REAL PROGRESS

An enabling environment must be created for innovation in boosting the economy for the Department that is the infrastructure nerve centre of the province.

Honourable speaker, honourable premier, honourable members and guests, good morning.

Honourable Speaker, in examining the report of the DRPW it becomes more and more evident that there needs to be a focus on increasing accountability through effective oversight mechanisms.

In a nut shell: What must the Department of Public Works achieve?
They must, as the infrastructure nerve centre of the Province – they must provide service to client Departments. This means that they play a major role in terms of building new infrastructure in terms roads, hospitals, clinics and schools, they must build and invest in infrastructure, thereby growing the economy and thereby creating jobs. They must do this within pre-determined time-frames and within the available budget.

This report and the reports over the past 5 years tell us, they are very good at spending their budgets, close to 100% every year, year on year. What the reports also tells us is that although they spend their budget, they don’t achieve their targets.

  • Ten capital infrastructure projects not completed within the agreed time period.
  • Ten capital infrastructure projects not completed within the budget.
  • They wanted to implement 10 maintenance project, they implemented only 2.
  • Out of 46 infrastructure designs only 18 were completed.
  • Throughout the past 5 years this department has been plagued with massive amounts of irregular expenditure, for the period under review it was R 250 million, while fruitless and wasteful expenditure was at R 1.3 million.
  • They came in R 60 million under budget in terms of road maintenance – the single most important driver of the economy in a rural province.

John F Kennedy said – “It is not our wealth that built our roads but our roads that built our wealth”.

So they have great big plan that doesn’t amount to anything at the end of the day. But where is the disjuncture, where are things going wrong, why are they not achieving results?

  • Ineffective oversight mechanisms.
  • Poor planning.
  • Poor leadership.
  • A lack of innovation.

“In South Africa’s low growth environment‚ innovation can play a critical role to create jobs through increased productivity‚ and improve the lives of the poor through providing better products and services‚” said Paul Noumba Um‚ World Bank Country Director for South Africa.

The South Africa Economic Update‚ focusing on Innovation for Productivity and Inclusiveness‚ proposed five key interventions that can help us grow the economy:

  1. Foster a business climate conducive to innovation – this means cutting red tape for innovative companies in obtaining construction permits‚ getting electricity connections we must find ways not hamper development but to encourage it. The goal is to make it easier, not more difficult to do business in South Africa.
  2. Nurture innovation ecosystems in cities.
    We must purposefully allocate resources to drive innovation.
  3. Build the skills base
    Labour shortages in high-skilled sectors are severely limiting innovation. South Africa is losing more professionals than it is gaining. We must improve the skills supply by encouraging and creating incentives for highly skilled professionals to work in South Africa.
  4. Improve ICT infrastructure
    Our economy requires fast and cheap broadband to connect businesses with domestic and international consumers‚ and to enable the efficient delivery of public services. But South African consumers are paying more for broadband services of lower speeds than many other emerging economies.
    “Urgent reforms are needed to increase investment in mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure‚ strengthen competition‚ and improve the quality and reduce the price of ICT services”.
  5. Enhance the effectiveness of public programmes and incentives for innovation
    “Government support programmes are a formidable strength of South Africa’s innovation ecosystem‚” The World Bank notes.
    We simply have to be more innovative in finding solutions to everyday problems. We have to stop doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.

In May of last year I tabled a motion in this house, a motion that earned me the nick name – ‘Mrs Plastic Roads’ followed by extended periods of laughter. I proposed that we look into replacing the bitumen component of conventional roads with waste plastic. It would have created thousands upon thousands of jobs while building roads that were 50% cheaper, 70% faster to build and would require almost no maintenance. All while saving the environment, growing the economy and creating jobs.

You would have nothing of it.

It could have been the single most innovative thing to come to South Africa, it could have been the single most innovative thing to come to Africa in years. Here is the good news – IT STILL WILL BE.

Let me assure you here today on the 5th of December 2018. We will be building plastic roads in South Africa. We will do it in DA run municipalities, we will create thousands of jobs, we will attract unprecedented investment in our country and we will nurture what could be Africa’s greatest economy.

Innovation in building roads will happen, whether you want to be a part of it or not.

Honourable Speaker, we must also focus on getting our Supply Chain Management Process right. In South Africa, government must start to value the strategic importance of SCM to service delivery. This Public Sector SCM Review is a reflection on the current state of SCM in the public sector; the reforms that are being considered; and the opportunities that an efficient and effective system presents.

Honourable Speaker, if it is SCM is implemented as envisaged in section 217 of the Constitution, the benefits will be enormous:

  • Good-quality service delivery will be increasingly possible, with significant improvements in the welfare of South Africa’s citizens and especially the poor who rely heavily on government for support.
  • The economy will grow as economic infrastructure is expanded and efficiently maintained.
  • Goods, services and infrastructure will be bought at lower costs.
  • Innovation will result in different approaches to the commodities used in some sectors.
  • For suppliers, the cost of doing business with the state should decrease substantially. Transparency and open contracting are critical elements of any public sector SCM system.

Honourable Speaker, the EPWP programme continues to be the star programme of the Department and it must be commended.

A year ago, this committee asked for a very important recommendation in its report; that was that the department identify additional revenue streams to fund the roads programme, this was identified as a massive challenge for the Department and there is no way around it, additional sources of funding will be the only way to deal with massive backlog of over R 1 billion on roads.

Although this is no longer the focus for the Department of Public Works as the Transport Programme was moved to the Department of Transport, the fact is this, it is still all of our problem, it is still all of our responsibility, the onus is still on all of us to lead the way.

The DA supports the report by the department.

Thank you.