Budget Vote Speech by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
Statement by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
- Chairperson and other members of the Standing Committee
- Honourable Members
- Head of Department, Ms Jacqui Gooch, and senior officials
By now the broad effects of cuts to provincial funding which National Treasury has been obliged to impose are generally known. Given the time available, I do not think it necessary for me to spend time exploring again the details of the on-going economic challenges facing the country as a whole. Suffice it to say that in recent speeches in this House I have made it clear where I believe much of the blame for the worsening position of South Africa within a world-wide economic malaise lies. No country can afford to play fast and loose with key anchor Cabinet positions such as that of the national Minister of Finance without its paying a massive price – in the case of South Africa the initial price is an estimated R500 billion and an aggravated crisis of investment confidence.
It is simply naïve to think that shambolic actions at government level will be ignored or overlooked by the factors and conditions which drive healthy economic development.
As the Minister responsible for Transport and Public Works I can benefit the people of this province much more by applying my energies and the skills of my department to addressing the challenges of the restrictive fiscal environment whatever the causes.
Let me now turn to the budget itself. What are the facts of the overall Vote 10 budget for 2016/17 which I am addressing here this afternoon?
This time last year I indicated that the projected budget for this financial year was R7.10 billion – which would have been a slight increase over the R6.76 billion of last year. In fact, Speaker, the increase is lower than projected and the 2016/17 budget is R6.79 billion, an overall increase of less than 0.5%. This lower amount is scheduled to rise to R7.0 billion in 2017/18 and to R7.23 billion in the outer year of the MTEF.
The Department of Transport and Public Works – in line with other Provincial Departments - operates on the basis of various programmes. In the case of DTPW there are six programmes, each of which has to be funded from the R6.79 billion budget for the department. From a programme perspective the allocations are as follows in the coming financial year:
- Administration – R180.326 million
- Public Works Infrastructure – R1.68 billion
- Transport Infrastructure – R3.15 billion
- Transport Operations – R1.08 billion
- Transport Regulation – R629.920 million
- Community Based Programmes – R59.21 million
The DTPW is also the infrastructure implementing agent for both education and health in the province. The DTPW will therefore in the financial year under discussion spend an additional amount of R1.29 billion on behalf of the WCED and an additional amount of R560.821 million on behalf of the Department of Health. Both these amounts include funds for capital works and for maintenance and in total add a further R1.85 billion.
I must repeat the assurance which I gave this time last year that the strategic decisions about health and education infrastructure projects are taken by those departments. As is usual, full lists of the projects to be undertaken or completed appear as part of the votes of those departments.
When my Cabinet colleague, Minister Ivan Meyer, presented the budget for the province in this House he announced that he would co-ordinate with me and the Ministers of Education and of Health a governance framework aimed at strengthening the monitoring and delivery of infrastructure in the Province and mitigating any key risks. I believe that this framework will be of benefit to the Province as a whole as well as to the individual departments concerned. The role of Provincial Treasury in this regard is crucial. I will have more to say about this arrangement later in this address.
Minister Meyer also confirmed that the overall budget of the Western Cape Government reflected the upper limits for cost of employees as agreed by the Western Cape Cabinet in its commitment to control personnel expenditure with a focus on what he described as ensuring an appropriate mix between critical front-line staff and back-office support.
Speaker, the commitment across all budgets, including that of my department, is clear. However, how this commitment and these upper limits play themselves out in day to day practice will obviously vary from department to department in terms of their specific service mandates. In my previous portfolio as Minister of Education with a department which committed over 80% of its budget to human resources these limits would have meant one thing. In my present portfolio as Minister of Transport and Public Works with a department in which over 60% of the budget is spent through a supply chain these upper limits will mean another. Crudely put, if you do not have suitably qualified and experienced professionals [referred to by Minister Meyer as critical front-line staff] the chances of spending infrastructure budgets on the purposes for which they were allocated are negatively impacted.
Perhaps the most startling example in recent times can be drawn from the USA. A recently released report reveals that in 2009 the Obama administration allocated $800 billion in an economic stimulus package to replace outdated infrastructure and to build new projects in line with emerging green and energy standards. 5 years later the White House announced that only $30 billion [a mere 3.6% of the package] had been spent – and this largely on transport infrastructure. As President Obama put it – there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects. The combination of a shortage of skilled professionals and an exponential increase in the complexity of the regulatory and environmental context can make delivery very difficult.
In the case of the DTPW only 11% of the total budget is for cost of employment, including obviously the front-line staff needed to oversee planning, design, allocation of tenders and monitoring of work. 11% is used therefore to deliver over R6 billion of my department’s own budget and an additional R1.85 billion for education and health.
Time does not allow me to deal with the wide-ranging challenges facing not only the DTPW but all built environment sectors in South Africa when it comes to obtaining the services of appropriately qualified staff. However, you can take it that my department is familiar with the extensive research which has been done by, amongst others, the Council for the Built Environment. The picture which emerges is not a rosy one. In the face of this and the costs of employment limits which have been set, we have planned to manage the situation through at least the following steps:
- Prioritisation of posts through a high level departmental committee
- Any post which becomes vacant during the year will be considered against set criteria
- Early review of posts that will become vacant when people retire in the next year to determine whether the post should be filled
- Focus on delivery for infrastructure and posts which support such delivery.
We also continue to run our successful Masakh’iSizwe bursary programme in conjunction with the private sector. In 2016 this programme has 172 bursary holders over 80% from previously disadvantaged groups.
I referred earlier to Minister Meyer’s commitment to the establishing of an infrastructure co-ordination and risk mitigation framework. One of the great advantages of this framework in the present climate of reduced costs of employment budgets and a scarcity of technical and scientific staff is that it will allow the Ministers involved to explore the possible combination of the professional teams where available and appropriate – an example of joined up government in action.
Speaker, faced with the reality of providing front line services during fiscally difficult times, the province cannot consider only cutbacks. It is also crucial that the province re-evaluates its fixed asset portfolio with a view to pursuing a variety of options. These options could range from the use of various Special Purpose Vehicles and PPPs for development purposes, through development partnerships to outright disposal. The present regulatory environment is complex and the existing Western Cape Land Administration Act, which has served the province well since 1998 is not entirely aligned to the Government Immovable Asset Management Act of 2007. For this reason I will in the next few months be taking to Cabinet a Draft Western Cape Immovable Asset Management Bill to be released for public comment with a view to being tabled for debate and adoption. When enacted, this legislation will provide a clear basis for the acquisition of immovable assets and the disposal and development of provincial state land.
In the meantime, following announcements in this House by the Premier, Minister Madikizela and I have released details of the exciting Live, Work, Play pilot development on the previous Conradie Hospital site in conjunction with the City of Cape Town and private sector role-players identified through an open, public process – a real game-changer in property development terms.
Speaker, the Province continues to receive positive comments about the provincial road network. Just last Thursday I welcomed back in Cape Town a group of vintage car owners from Europe who had completed a two week journey in 30 vintage cars shipped to South Africa for this purpose. Their road trip took them through the Karoo and on to Plettenberg Bay and back via the Garden Route. They were all full of praise for the state of the roads they used.
We continue to roll out projects such as the R487 million project to upgrade the N1 over 9 km from Plattekloof Road to just beyond the Old Oak interchange. The N1 is undoubtedly one of the more important roads for this region and improving travel times and easing congestion remain imperatives. This project, which is expected to be completed in February 2019 will also be used to contribute to the socio-economic objectives of the Department. R8 million has been dedicated to qualifying contractors for specific elements of the project who are part of the Emerging Contractor Development Programme. In addition, there is a total of R24 million committed to Black Business Enterprises, and a total of 29 000 person days set aside for labour sourced from the local area. National Youth Service learners have been employed as part of this project.
Similar benefits will flow from the R186 million rehabilitation of a 7 km portion of the N2 between Borcherds Quarry Road and the R300. Better street lighting will also be installed in support of improving road safety.
R50.696 million has been allocated in 2016/17 and R20 million in 2017/18 for upgrading the 9 km of the Slent Road in the Klipheuwel area from gravel to surfaced. In the interests of supporting road safety the construction of street lighting from Bosmansdam Road to the Potsdam Interchange on the N7 will be completed with the intention of improving the safety of residents in Du Noon. I have also held a series of meetings with the communities in the area to reach agreement on further safety measures.
Speaker, given the fact that we are here just a few days after the Easter Weekend when thousands of road users took to our roads in a wide range of vehicles, private and public, it is appropriate that I say a few words about what appears to have been a successful improved Easter Traffic Safety campaign on our provincial road network. Last Thursday, my department and I announced the details of our focused Easter safety programme assisted by SAPS, the National Traffic Police Unit of the RTMC, municipal services and SANTACO. It stressed the partnership nature of road safety which includes every vehicle driver and passenger and saw the release of a new advertising campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the dangers and irresponsibility of not buckling up.
The traditional elements of education, engineering, evaluation and enforcement are not sufficient on their own. Every effort is therefore being made to extend the reach of our professional traffic staff by the introduction of technological resources including:
- Deployment of our internally developed hand-held devices which enable our traffic officers to verify information and data rapidly on the spot. This is a first in South Africa and provides our officers with real-time access to the automatic number plate recognition camera system which is in turn linked to the eNaTIS database of all driver and vehicle information.
- Round the clock deployment of officers at as many of our average speed over distance camera routes as possible – including sections of the N2, the R61, the R27 and most of the N1.
- Deployment of 35 Provincial Traffic Officers and vehicles equipped with body worn or dash-cam cameras for live streaming of video footage to enhance enforcement efforts.
In addition, we have worked closely with the National Prosecuting Authority, the RTMC and other agencies to see the re-introduction of a legally watertight and credible random breath testing system. I had hoped to be in a position to announce this re-introduction before the Easter Weekend, but the complex nature of the related issues delayed this. I am, however, confident that this will soon be a reality.
Speaker, I should like to thank here today the thousands of road users who travelled on this road network and who, by all accounts, responded positively to our on-going efforts to reduce significantly the costly carnage which we witness all too often – costly in terms of precious human lives, devastation for families, crippling demands on health and social services.
Obviously, it is not sufficient to rely only on special campaigns during peak holiday times. I therefore intend, in addition, to approach Cabinet with an amendment to our road traffic act which will enable me to make regulations regarding the impounding of vehicles. Once the consequential regulations are in place traffic officers will be able to impound vehicles under a variety of circumstances. This will improve the reach and effectiveness of traffic enforcement agencies in the Western Cape – municipal as well as provincial. We cannot allow serious road traffic offences to go unsanctioned.
While on the topic of traffic enforcement I must also make it clear that the Western Cape Government has opposed in every forum available to it attempts to nationalise all provincial traffic forces under one central control. Apart from questioning the constitutionality of this proposed shift, we do not believe that it is in the interests of effective traffic policing.
Speaker, public transport remains an on-going challenge for too many people who live, work and study in this province. An effective, safe and reliable rail service is the key building block around which other systems can function. Both the Province and the City have made sincere efforts to work with Prasa and Metrorail to transform the existing fragile and limited system. Given the constitutional position of public transport as a concurrent power I believe that the time has come for the WCG to legislate in order to define and play its proper role. With this in mind I intend as soon as possible to propose the passing of a Western Cape Public Transport Framework Bill as a supplement to the National Land Transport Act which will enable us to give effect to provincial policy on public transport, to co-ordinate the work of municipalities in this regard and to integrate land transport throughout the province. A busy but positive year lies ahead.
Speaker, in closing I should like to thank my Cabinet colleagues, the members of the Standing Committees with which we work, the members of this House and the excellent, hard-working HOD of my department and her staff, some of whom are present here today.