Remarks to the Portfolio Committee on Transport by Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, Minister of Transport, National Assembly
16 Nov 2010
Members of the Portfolio Committee
Ladies and gentlemen
One of the greatest challenges facing our country is the reduction of the carnage experienced on a daily basis on our roads. Our country continues to experience a very high rate of road crashes and fatalities. On a global scale, the United Nations Economic Commission has realised the immense loss of life caused by road accidents and the negative impact this has on the economies of the developing world.
In realising this dire situation, South Africa has committed itself, as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the resolutions taken at the 2007 Accra Road Safety Conference, to improve road safety and halve the number of crashes and fatalities by the year 2015. We were also part of the Conference in 2009 in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania that declared a Decade of Action against Road Accidents.
We are here today to brief the Portfolio Committee on recent developments pertaining to the operation of the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the challenges and how we tackled them.
The RTMC, which is mandated to coordinate traffic management issues in the country, is a lead agency established to bring under one umbrella a range of road safety programmes designed to educate road users and to reduce the carnage on our roads. It was established after realising that traffic law enforcement is a shared responsibility between municipalities, provinces and the national department. To ensure proper coordination, an agency was established at the national level.
The structure and its operations acknowledged this constitutional imperative by creating a Shareholders Committee consisting of the national Minister, MECs responsible for transport and the South African Local Government Association.
Over the past year, we received various complaints from staff, whistle-blowers and other sources relating to allegations of mismanagement at the RTMC under CEO Mr Ranthoko Rakgoale. These allegations were brought to the attention of the RTMC Board and the Ministry of Transport ordered an investigation into the allegations.
We appointed an independent Task Team under the Chairpersonship of Ms Riah Phiyega to investigate allegations of mismanagement, as well as issues relating to leadership, governance, business and finance at the RTMC.
From this investigation, Mr Rakgoale was subsequently suspended and Mr Collins Letsoalo, Deputy Director-General: Financial Services at the Department of Transport was appointed acting CEO.
The Task Team presented its report on 27 July 2010. Two days later, we outlined key findings of the report at a media briefing in Pretoria. The report was subsequently presented twice to the RTMC Shareholders’ Committee. We are now tabling this report to the Portfolio Committee.
Key findings of the report include irregular expenditure, inappropriate procurement procedures and unauthorised use of eNaTIS transaction fees.
One of the main findings of the Task Team relate to an irregular lease agreement of R658 million over a ten year period. The actual loss on this lease is estimated at R11 million. This lease has now been cancelled.
According to the Task Team, the total value of confirmed irregular expenditure actually incurred at the RTMC is estimated at R144 million.
Based on the recommendations of the report, several staff at the RTMC has been suspended. The disciplinary inquiry is in the process of being finalised. Further, the forensic audit process is still underway, the results of which will be actioned by the acting CEO of the RTMC. Therefore, those matters which are still subject to due legal process and internal HR procedures cannot be publicly disclosed at this stage.
The Public Finance Management Act (Act 1 of 1999) makes it abundantly clear that the accounting authority for a public entity commits an act of financial misconduct if that accounting authority willfully or negligently makes or permits an irregular expenditure or a fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
Those found guilty of such offences are liable on conviction to a fine, dismissal or imprisonment.
The Department of Transport has adopted a zero tolerance stance when it comes to fraud, corruption and mismanagement. Any person found guilty of such acts must face the consequences of their actions.
With the appointment of the Acting CEO, the functioning of the RTMC has stabilised substantially and the RTMC is on track to deliver on its mandate of safer roads in South Africa. The issues raised in the Task Team report are being dealt with and some of the recommendations have already been implemented.
The RTMC was established for co-operative and coordinated strategic planning in respect of road traffic matters by the national, provincial and local spheres of government. It is therefore of paramount importance that this agency functions effectively and efficiently to fulfill its mandate.
Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA)
In addition to interventions we have made with regard to the Road Traffic Management Corporation, during this year we have already appointed the Board of the RTIA and already appointed key executives. This Agency is critical for the management of AARTO infringements and its implementation.
With regard to the uninformed opposition to the implementation of AARTO, it is important that we put the record straight. This Act, which gave birth to AARTO, was passed in 1999 and therefore it is wrong to suggest that it is a new piece of legislation.
Law Enforcement Officers from municipal, provincial and national government have all the necessary powers to enforce traffic laws. Therefore, it is a complete misconception that proper traffic law enforcement will only happen with the introduction of the Administrative Adjudication of Road traffic Offences (AARTO).
As part of the new National Rolling Enforcement Plan (NREP) that we announced on 10 September 2010, 1 053 million vehicles and drivers have been stopped and checked and thousands of fines issued for various traffic offences from 1 to 31 October 2010. The new NREP marks the start of a major law enforcement drive reflecting our commitment to reducing road carnage in South Africa by half in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals.
Thousands of people are being needlessly killed and maimed every year because of the way South Africans drive. But road safety is not what you do to the community; it is what we do with the community.
The most significant factor that AARTO introduces for drivers is 12 chances for self-correction. Under the current Road Traffic Act, that chance does not exist. Together with the nine Transport MECs, we currently sit with thousands of appeals for leniency by drivers who have broken the law. Once your driving licence is endorsed, appeal to the MEC and Minister is the only avenue for review under current legislation.
AARTO introduces an improved regime. A bad driver is afforded a window to become a good driver. That happens over time. That happens not after one infringement, as currently as is the case, but with 12.
With AARTO, a distinction is made between a traffic infringement and traffic offence. Once you commit an offence, you stand a very good chance of having a criminal record for at least five years. Recently, a South African citizen who applied for a visa to the US went through an embarrassing challenge because immigration in that country picked up that he had a criminal record. It turned out that the criminal record was a traffic offence. But a crime is a crime.
A few months ago, outstanding truck drivers in South Africa were given awards at the National Driver of the Year Competition. We discovered that we have drivers who have been driving for 30 years, 25 years, 15 and 10 years without having committed a single traffic violation. The same good drivers who do not break any laws are plentiful within the taxi industry. Contrary to popular belief, out of approximately seven million drivers in South Africa, bad drivers are a tiny minority but they are deadly. It is this tiny but deadly menace that we are talking about.
AARTO means that traffic offences are dealt with administratively. However, at any stage, the offender may choose not to subject themselves to AARTO, but to normal criminal procedure. So far from the rights of the driver being taken away, he/she is afforded a range of alternatives.
The points demerit system will be implemented at a later stage. Demerit points are therefore not effective on any current infringement notice. Instead, we have embarked on massive education of drivers and law enforcement officers.
Currently the RTMC does not have a Board. The Board was dissolved in April 2010 over the neglect of its fiduciary duties and responsibilities. In terms of the Act as articulated above, the mandate of the Board is determined by the powers delegated to it by the Shareholders Committee. The Act stipulates that before appointing a Board, the Shareholders Committee should decide on powers to be delegated to the Board and the conditions it deems fit to impose in respect of the delegated powers. At present, the Shareholders Committee acts as the Board in order to give us enough time to select and recruit Board members who will execute their tasks without fear or favour.
The progress and impact on initiatives resulted in better monitoring services, better control over supplies; reduction in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, control over finances, reduction in irregular expenditure, decrease in audit queries; automated financial procedures; accurate and timely management account for better financial management and independence from the DoT as envisaged by the RTMC Act.
Through the new approach and turnaround strategy the RTMC also managed to work and improve on the following:
- Performance-driven culture
- Efficient business environment
- Proactive detection of underperformance and remedies
- Improved perceptions and communication
- Better layout plan for a conducive working environment and
- We also experienced a reduction in audit queries and mitigated risks.
New National Rolling Traffic Enforcement Plan (NREP)
South Africa has prioritised our road safety strategy and strengthened the coordination of law enforcement through the RTMC.
Our Make Roads Safe Campaign is no longer a seasonal campaign but continues throughout the year. Through the New Traffic Enforcement Plan, the DoT and the RTMC vow to adopt a more aggressive approach in our determination to tackle those who transgress the laws of the road. Our research methodologies also assist us to identify hazardous locations on our road network and how to respond to them. To date more than 1.3 million vehicles have been stopped and checked through the new NREP. This has also improved our deployment strategy of our law enforcement resources.
Issued by: Department of Transport
16 Nov 2010
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