Budget Debate on Transport, Safety & Liaison Budget Vote

Hon. Harold McGluwa,

ID MPL & DA Provincial Chairperson

Hon Speaker the flow of people and goods in a functional society is the most important means of creating wealth, prosperity and economic growth. Individuals in a free society of open opportunities have the right to access safe, reliable and efficient public transport, including the right to use their own private means of transportation to commute. People also have the right to live, work and play in safe communities, free from the cruelty of crime and other social ills.

These two crucial elements of safety, and the ability to transport goods and commute, are the responsibility of the Department of Transport, Safety & Liaison to oversee.

Hon. Speaker, in an open opportunity society for all residents, we talk of an Efficient Society, one in which transport plays a crucial role in getting people to and from places of work and leisure. When they cannot move around freely and easily, their own life chances are reduced and the entire province suffers from these lost opportunities.

The creation of an Efficient Society allows individuals who are pursuing their separate interests, to be able to commute around and exchange goods, services and ideas through voluntary means.

Hon Speaker indeed personal safety is a necessity for all South Africans. People in our province are trapped in a web of terror caused by crime. Many people have lost their lives, and we have become suspicious of our fellow citizens and distrusting of the institutions that are supposed to keep us safe.

Therefore this Budget as presented by the Department is being held against the highest standards that we hold in the opposition. Our criticism and welcoming of certain parts of it, is based on our vision of the creation of safe and efficient communities.

The question arises, how does this Departments budget and Annual Performance Plan (APP) fair?

The Budget

Hon. Speaker our greatest concerns for this Department has been its inability to address the public transport crises in the province, coupled with this, is its inability to provide an effective link between SAPS and communities. These are effectively the Departments core functions!

The 2011/12 annual report showed that the Department was underperforming as it related to their Transport Systems sub-programme, and unsurprisingly the provision of safe, reliable and efficient public transport in the province has taken a back foot.

Take for example that all attempts at establishing Integrated Rapid Transport networks in the province are STILL at the level of discussions. There is nothing concrete, let alone anything at the budgetary level, at the moment. All the while, other provinces are currently implementing some or other public transport initiative.

This is an extremely big problem, and one can call it an effective service delivery failure by the Department. We see the outcomes of this failure in the lines of often poor workers having to walk long distances to get home after their shifts. As the winter months approach, these workers in many places of this province can face sub-zero temperatures during this commute. In all towns of the province, groups of ladies and children, often walk home late at night. I’m extremely concerned for their safety.

Hon. Speaker this Budget is small to say the least, and I do want to take this opportunity to say I recognize the challenge this has posed the Departments Accounting Officer and Senior Management. It can’t be easy for them. In reality, this Department receives a low budget, and makes a meagre attempt to source extra revenue through hap-hazard Motor Vehicle Licences. In total the 2013/14 financial year it has received over R229-million (R299 255 000).

It is also concerning that the Conditional Grants for the 2013/14 year see a marginal growth. The EPWP incentive grant of R196 000 comes across as an insult.

The bottom-line is this Department is in trouble funding-wise…things are looking bleak.

Therefore my criticism falls squarely onto the heads of the Honourable MEC. Where is the political leadership in this Department? In fact, the most apt example of this was the fact that the MEC himself was not present during the Budget Vote meeting.

Hon. Speaker let me be clear. This Budget is definitely not pro-poor, and this is my greatest concern overall.

Take for instance that a population of over 440-thousand people who reside in the Siyanda and Pixley Ka Seme regions have NO access to subsidized public transport services. This is just over 44% of this provinces people, and the vast majority of them poor. Certainly they are totally left-out by this Budget.

This is shocking, and it effectively means those people find it more difficult and expensive to commute to work. For those who are unemployed, it means more will find it more difficult to go out a seek employment.

It’s our view that this Department is best characterised by the numbers of people it DOES NOT service, versus those it does.

Hon. Speaker on the issue of the relationship between the Departments spending and inflation the national governments poor monetary policy has seen inflation steadily increase to 5.9%.

Therefore the increasing inflation rate has been another tax on the poor people of the province, because it has cut spending.

On Service Delivery

It’s important that the department look at the following challenges, which the budget does not address;

1.   The fact that the Department has no Public-Private Partnerships in place. This lack of innovation from the MEC’s Department is concerning, and hurts the poor the most.

2.   Under-performing Police Stations across the province. Residents from all areas are growing increasingly frustrated at the level of service. In fact, Modderrivier was a clear example of this.

It is especially worrying that Programme 2, which is Civilian Oversight, has been cut by 5.2%. Why would the MEC reduce such an important programme?

3.   The drop in funding for Monitoring and Evaluation, is concerning. The Department has failed to explain why no provision for monitoring how communities around police stations perceive their local SAPS station is done.

4.   How was it justifiable for the Department to slash 20.3% off the Community Police Relations Sub-programme. The ID believes the Department owe us and the people of this province an explanation for this!

5.   The “Transport Systems” sub-programme has received one of the smallest budget allocations. The poor funding is of a concern, as there is a need for developing an integrated transport plan across the province.

Take for example that the number of people who use bicycles to commute to-and-from work could easily be in the thousands, and YET not a single dedicated cycle route or lane exists in major cities.

6.   Lastly Speaker, people in bigger city’s such as Kimberley and Upington, are failed miserably at the lack of an efficient bus service, especially one which is part of an Integrated Rapid Transport System.

Our Alternative

Hon Speaker we believe that there are alternatives and better ways in which to allocate this budget. Indeed our suggestions are geared towards creating a Safe and Efficient Society. Let me share just three suggestions.

1.   A state subsidy via a single, multi-use ticket for all certified public transport users on IRT and BRT systems across the province.

2.   Improve funding for Monitoring & Evaluation programmes of police services, and provide residents with regular and up-to-date crime statistics.

3.   Establish many and innovative PPP’s which aim to improve service delivery and boost funding.

Hon Speaker in conclusion, it will be the Hon. MEC Mabilo’s actions which will speak louder than words.

Let us work towards ensuring that the Northern Cape with its vast transport network is regarded as the safest in the country.

Dankie, Ngi-ya-bonga!

Hon. Speaker this Budget Vote 3 is simply not going to adequately address the challenges of many poor residents across the province, and its targets are simply not ambitious and innovative enough, therefore we do not accept Budget Vote 3.

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