Minister Grant delivers departmental budget for maximum citizen impact
Speech by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
- Speaker/Deputy Speaker
- Chairperson and other members of the Standing Committee
- Leader of the Official Opposition
- Honourable Members
- Head of Department, Ms Jacqui Gooch, and senior officials
- Guests and visitors
Given the limited time available this year for the debates on the various Departmental Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, you have been supplied with a short, illustrated brochure covering the extent and variety of the activities of the Department of Transport and Public Works as provided for in Vote 10. This record has been designed, created and produced internally by the Communications division of the Department and I thank all concerned for their efforts.
In his foreword to the 2019 Budget Overview, my colleague the Minister of Finance, highlights the fact that this provincial budget is focused on Consolidation for Maximum Citizen Impact. And this is precisely how it should be, Speaker. If a government in a democratic state does not have the well-being of its citizenry at the top of its agenda, it cannot claim to be either legitimate or representative of the people. Or, as an article in this week’s The Economist puts it: the goal of economic progress is after all to help people lead more satisfying lives.
In making its various presentations to Provincial Treasury in the finalisation of the 2019 budget, my Department has ensured that this centrality of the citizen has been in the forefront of its planning – both technical and financial.
In this regard it is of more than passing interest to note the increasing attention being paid in many countries to the outcomes of the relatively new Social Progress Index which highlights the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.
And so, Speaker, the compact booklet you have received today illustrates what a government concerned about the well-being of its citizens can and must do in the built and transport environment. Roads, education and health infrastructure as well as transport and traffic management are not ends in themselves. They are the basis from which citizens draw key elements of the lives they desire to lead.
Before I move onto other aspects of the 2019 budget itself, it may be of interest to Members that the 2018 index included 146 countries and that South Africa is ranked 77 with an average score of 66% across the 51 indicators used. The leading countries score an average of well over 90%.
Let me now turn to the overall Vote 10 budget for 2019/20.
The total amount to be appropriated for Vote 10 – Transport and Public Works – is R8.1bn. The increase of R338m on the previous budget is marginally below inflation and of the total budget R1.7bn consists of own revenue. Approximately a quarter of the budget amount is linked to conditional grants.
The DTPW – in line with other Provincial Departments – operates using various programmes. The allocations to the 6 programmes within the Department are as follows for the 2019/20 financial year:
- Administration – R229 million
- PW Infrastructure – R1.99 billion
- Transport Infrastructure – R3.66 billion
- Transport Operations – R1.37 billion
- Transport Regulation – R795 million
- Community-Based Programmes – R64 million
As the DTPW is the implementing agent for both Education and Health infrastructure in the Western Cape, the DTPW is scheduled in the financial year under discussion to spend on behalf of these crucial delivery departments the following amounts:
- Education – R1.23 billion
- Health – R729 million
These amounts for Education and Health include funds for capital works and scheduled maintenance. The strategic decisions about these education and health infrastructure projects remain with those departments and the three departments co-operate to ensure that their budgets go as far as possible without sacrificing quality and safety standards. In the existing tough economic times, this co-operation is essential to service delivery.
Speaker, having unpacked broadly the quantum of Vote 10, it would be remiss of me not to alert this House to two factors which can and will impact on the real effectiveness of this budget.
The first is undoubtedly the inability of the government at national level to guarantee the provision of electricity through Eskom, the state-owned enterprise which has been under its control and stewardship for the last 25 years. The fact of control needs to be stressed given the national government’s recent attempts to make the shambolic state of affairs at Eskom a shared responsibility. Let there be no doubt, Speaker, that this grossly cossetted entity – protected at the expense of the tax-paying public – has been allowed to reach this dismal and dangerous situation while under the executive authority of a series of Ministers in the National Cabinet. These Ministers have at best been incompetent and uncaring. Only judicial processes if allowed to run their course will reveal whether they have in fact been complicit.
The additional failure at national level to resolve the impasse around the entry of independent power producers to the market – despite the readiness of many of our local governments to interact with these IPPs – is, under the existing circumstances, absurd.
Apart from the obvious implications for society generally, my Department and I are painfully aware of the impact of unreliable power flow on many infrastructure projects as well as the dangerous interruption to critical traffic management systems.
The frontline victims of this sort of economic undermining are the many small and medium-sized factories and service providers in the construction industry – the very undertakings which our contracts are designed to encourage and support. The market is awash with reports of these businesses shutting their doors. This is damage which will take years to fix and which will lose us many capable citizens to emigration.
The second of the inhibiting factors to which I referred, Speaker, is the overall state of the construction industry and the financial failure of a significant number of leading, long-established companies and groups. Many of these companies were, because of their industry rating and classification, precisely the companies which had to undertake the large projects crucial to taking our economy forward. While this debate is not the opportunity to examine the reasons for their demise, we need to be aware of the lengths to which the DTPW will have to go to ensure that these projects can still be completed successfully. This includes the breaking up of large cost-effective undertakings into smaller units requiring careful co-ordination with a resultant reduction of economies of scale. The Department has also had to manage increasing risks of the failing of contractors already engaged in work for it and the implications of this for the calling up of guarantees, the sourcing of suitable replacements and the possible delays to project completion, possibly with cost implications.
Speaker, the overall mandate of the DTPW is one which requires a range of skilled, qualified staff at all levels and in a variety of disciplines. Staff of this quality are not easy to obtain and retain. As a result, the Department has instituted a variety of processes to upskill its existing staff and to equip potential employees with appropriate skills sets. The Masakh’iSizwe Bursary Scheme is a well-known and highly respected example of these processes. However, today I want to recognise staff of the DTPW whose career paths have been less usual and really challenging.
In the Special Guest seating we have today four valued members of the DTPW staff.
Ms Thabisa Mayekiso joined DTPW in 2009 as a cleaner and has recently been appointed as a Finance Assistant in the Directorate Financial Accounting.
Mr John Titus was a gardener at Leeuwenhof before being recommended for further employment. He is now an Assistant Director in the Property Management Team.
Mr Bongi Tshendu was also on the ground staff of Leeuwenhof before applying for a position in the Provincial Public Works Branch. He is now a Senior Administrative Officer in the Immovable Asset Registry.
Ms Christina Sako joined the Department in 2006 with a National Diploma. She obtained professional registration and her Bachelor Degree through the Professional Development Programme and is today an Architectural Technologist in the Works General Branch.
Speaker, the creation of jobs is critical. Finding and developing our people to fill these jobs is as important. I want to thank these special, highly valued members of our staff for being here with us today and for the outstanding work they do in the interests of our citizens.
In closing, I want to comment on two initiatives taken by the Province in relation to the commuter rail system – a system which is clearly unsuitable for the needs of our society and for a modern economy. It is a further example of the failure of the government at national level to manage a state entity with even a semblance of competence.
Firstly, the weekly reports issued by the partnership of the Province, the City of Cape Town and PRASA in providing additional security on the rail network indicate that with proper planning and resourcing the security situation and the safety of passengers can be improved.
Secondly, Cabinet has approved for public comment a Draft Rail Bill from my Department. This will be gazetted soon and is aimed at enhancing the authority of the Province to monitor commuter rail performance and to hold the system accountable. The importance of an efficient, reliable commuter rail system is critical to the overall public transport system and to relieving the congestion on our road network.
I thank you.