Address by honourable Ghishma Barry, Eastern Cape MEC for Transport Safety and Liaison at the presentation of the Portfolio Committee on Transport report on budget vote 10 for 2010/11, Eastern Cape legislature, Bhisho
4 Jun 2010
Honourable Speaker Honourable premier Honourable MECs Honourable members Government officials Distinguished guests Ladies and gentlemen
Let me first thank the Portfolio Committee on Transport for their succinct analysis of our budget for the 2010/11 financial year together with the budget of Mayibuye Transport Corporation, our policy speech, annual performance plan, operational plan and the strategic plan 2009 to 2014.
As we have indicated in the past, the department is undergoing a challenging period as we had to reconfigure our programmes due to the migration of the roads component to the Department of Public Works.
On 19 March 2010, a total of 1 869 roads branch employees were transferred to the Department of Public Works and were later followed by contract workers and interns. On Monday this week, 42 employees from community based Transportation were transferred.
These changes have diminished our budget allocation as we have only received 31 percent of what was allocated in the last financial year.
However, we remain committed to deliver services as expected of us guided by our new vision of a “quality transport system for a "better life for all".
The first step towards this new direction that we are pursuing is to stabilise the administration of the department. We are now finalising the organogramm of the new Department of Transport and that process is expected for completion by the end of this month after which relevant institutions, including the Office of the Premier and the Department of Public Service and Administration will be approached.
This process will further enable us to fast-track the process of appointing a person that would be at the helm of the administration of the department.
We have noted the recommendation on the role of our Customer Care Centre. However, we need to clarify the fact that when members of the public call sometimes they do not seek transport related information and it is incumbent upon our agents in line with the principles of Batho Pele to offer the necessary assistance.
With regard to the funding method of bus passenger transport, I would like to bring to the attention of this house that this discussion has been ongoing since the days of former of Minister of Transport, Mr Jeff Radebe, when we all raised concern about the funding method of this service.
We observed that the current funding was favouring the urban communities, which is not consistent with the priorities of government, which include rural development.
In the City Press newspaper last Sunday, the Deputy Minister of Transport Mr Jeremy Cronin wrote: "We need to make qualitative transformational interventions and transport cannot do this alone".
He further gave a hint of the future handling of public transportation by saying: "All this means that as we have increasingly come to realise that there is a need to be greater devolution of key public transport responsibilities, planning, regulation and funding to the municipal sphere".
With regard to the interventions in the former Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei (TBVC) states, we have submitted business plans twice (in 2007 and 2008) for the funding of rural subsidised public transport.
However, the department was not successful in its endeavours. We have raised this matter with the national Minister of Transport and in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). A detailed business plan will again be submitted to the national Department of Transport.
Honourable Speaker, before I comment on the public transport findings and recommendations, I would like to announce that the Kei Rail project scooped two awards at the Africa Rail conference's glittering awards ceremony held in Johannesburg on Tuesday night.
The project was announced as the best rail passenger operator in Africa and our Deputy Director-General for Roads and Public Transport, Mr Nkululeko Poya received the best rail personality of the year in Africa.
Honourable members, this proves the correctness of our decision as provincial government to go back to rail and clearly shows the appreciation that we enjoy from other African countries because the Kei Rail project has always been a shining example of government's back to rail strategy.
With regard to Africa's Best 350 Ltd, I am sure that some of the honourable members would recall that previously the department had contracts with 148 individual small bus operators, a system that proved to be open to corruption and very difficult to administer.
The department did not flout any policies in the establishment and contracting of AB350, instead we entered into a negotiated contract (which is a standard government contract) with AB350 which is in line with the legislation (the National Land Transport Transition Act then and the National Land Transport Act now) to provide subsidised bus passenger transport services on routes identified for this purpose.
The establishment of AB350 was done in line with government policy of empowering small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMME's) and the contracting of AB350 was done in terms of national legislation to enhance mobility and accessibility of rural communities which in turn enhances rural development, which is a national priority.
The department is not funding a company, as alleged, but subsiding passengers as is the case with any bus passenger services in the country that are conducted under a contract with the government.
The subsidy is routed through the company to allow them (AB350) to keep their fares at the prescribed affordable level. So, the department is in this regard, and legally so, a public transport facilitator. It must be noted that AB350 transported 3 669 415 subsidised passengers in the 2009/10 financial year and can therefore not be considered a liability.
Honourable Speaker, three months ago I stood on this podium and pronounced that AB350 would expand its operations to the Butterworth area in line with Premier Noxolo Kiviet's pronouncement through the State of the Province Address that we would expand the current number of buses in the former Transkei area.
As we speak, 14 buses have started operations last week in Butterworth servicing areas such as Centane, Dutywa, Ngqamakwe and Tsomo. A total of 40 direct jobs have been created with the employment of drivers, conductors, cleaners, depot managers, cashiers, tyre attendants and fuel attendants.
With regard to Algoa Bus Company, the department is actively involved in the management of Algoa Bus Company's operations in terms of the interim contract and we are also represented in the Board of Directors of Algoa Bus Company and this representation influences the strategic direction of the company.
Honourable Speaker, the department has always been raising the issue of underfunding of Mayibuye Transport Corporation. On 6 May 2010, the department presented this challenge to Provincial Treasury based on the corporation's operational budget, as approved by its board of directors, but to date no response has been received.
With regard to non-motorised transport, we were compelled by circumstances to reprioritise based on the funding that we have received. However, we remain committed to continue to provide non-motorised transportation to our people, especially rural learners.
Honourable members, with regard to the development of integrated transport plans, we remain committed to assist the local planning authorities as per section 36(1) of the National Land Transport Act, Act 5 of 2009, but it is a known fact that our budget for the 2010/11 financial year is under such severe stress that it is difficult to envisage any room for reprioritisation at this stage. However, the department will monitor the situation as part of the monthly in year monitoring meetings.
Honourable Speaker, we are left with only seven days to the 2010 FIFA World Cup and one of the key responsibilities of this department is traffic law enforcement.
Honourable members would recall that we established the roving special operations task team in December 2008 and since then, a number of successes have been achieved, which include:
arrest of 4 488 people for drunken driving
issuing of 46 828 summonses worth R25 333 847
suspension of 2 286 vehicles, including public transport vehicles
confiscation of 220 misused government vehicles.
Today, in Port Elizabeth, this department in collaboration with the Department of Safety and Liaison is opening "the first of its kind" Alcohol Evidence Centre in our province, which has been sponsored by South African Breweries to ensure that:
no more inefficient and ineffective blood testing
significant reduction in processing time
significant increase in arrest
no more lost or damaged evidence
plus minus 85 percent of those charged admit guilt
plus minus 95 percent of cases contested in court are won
Working together with South African Breweries, we intend to open similar centers in East London and Mthatha in the near future. During the world cup, this task team will conduct traffic law enforcement activities, escort FIFA family, teams and sponsors to and from the airports, hotels, stadium and fan festivals.
As I have indicated in the past, the task team's term ends next month after the world cup.
Community based transportation
Honourable Speaker, it is important to highlight the fact that the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) is not about roads construction or maintenance ONLY.
The new Community Based Transportation programme recognises the immense potential of the transportation sector to enhance social, economic and cultural life of the resource poor communities through community transportation, which includes transport infrastructure, roadside animal management (road rangers), pedestrian safety, bus and taxi stops, footpaths, bicycle paths, safe river crossings, and any other motorised and non-motorised transport.
These interventions are integrally linked to each other through the framework of the Community Based Transportation which will ensure that we:
Assist rural communities to develop their capacity to enable the department to effectively communicate its commitment and consult with these communities
Provide a "safety net" for the rural population and create opportunities at the lowest level of entry into the transportation sector through community participation and public education
Use public Transportation opportunities for the development of social capital
Use public transportation opportunities such as taxi and bus operations for nurturing and developing emerging contractors and operators
Provide opportunities for access and mobility for the poor and marginalised through transportation innovation.
In conclusion, I would like to commit myself and the department to ensure that we provide the necessary responses to the committed within the stipulated period.