Roads Department Derails its Own Initiatives

Pine Pienaar MPL

DA Eastern Cape Shadow MEC for Roads and Public Works

The Department of Roads and Public Works is derailing one of its best initiatives, namely Road Forums in municipalities, by farming out the work to consultants, who in turn appoint more consultants. The implantation of policies is problematic and mired by the absence of the key role players at local Road Forum level.

I have received numerous complaints, the latest being from Nxuba Municipality in Bedford where the Local Road Forum, despite strong attendance by stakeholders, has been held up by the on-going absence of the officials from the Department of Roads and Public Works. Nineteen agenda items have been deferred since February, owing to absence and late coming.

The Local Road Forums are welcomed by the people of this province. If the paid officials from the department would attend meetings, it could lead to focus, collaboration and delivery. Politicians countrywide have been grappling with a fundamental illness in public life. For service delivery to take place, public servants have to serve. This is a clear case in point.

I have today written to the MEC for Roads and Public Works, Thandiswa Marawu, to request her to investigate why her officials are not attending forum meetings.

Without official go-ahead, these forums cannot implement any decisions taken at meetings.

It is problematic that, despite the in-house expertise at the department, the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) has been appointed as the service provider. They have in-turn appointed consultants – Kungawo Development to drive the Road Forums. This is ironic in the extreme: consultants appointing consultants to drive a Forum whose only obstacle is the non-participation of the department who appointed the consultants who appointed the consultants.

A further bone of contention is the CDC’s policy of paying stakeholders R500 per person per meeting to attend. This is unnecessary expenditure because the stakeholders have a vested interest in prioritising their domains of concern. It should not be necessary to further incentivize participation.

This capital-outlay pales into insignificance in the face of R78 million unspent by the department last year, while the roads in the province fell into pot-holes and billions was spent on consulting contracts. Whilst consultative planning and expertise are certainly needed and necessary, the people of the province would surely like to see the bulk of the budget for Roads and Public Works spent on infrastructure.

The call to strengthen the role of Road Forums at local government level is one of the most promising initiatives to come out of the Department of Roads and Public Works. These forums are meant to involve local stakeholders, business, taxis, school principals, the Department and its service providers. The collaboration seeks to address the on-going challenge of keeping the country’s roads, particularly access roads to clinics, schools and business, in good working order. It has been agreed and re-iterated by all parties that the key to job creation, delivery of services and economic development is a sound and maintained road system.

The Democratic Alliance would like to see the widely touted Road Forums attended by the department who established them. Their recommendations must be taken promptly, with as little budget as possible diverted to consultants and as much budget as possible to visible outcomes.

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