EC cannot afford more scholar transport middle men

Issued by: Marshall von Buchenroder MPL

Shadow MEC for Transport

Pupils who rely on the state for scholar transport cannot be held hostage by tender-hungry consortiums.  Funds for scholar transport should be used to get our children to school and not to line the pockets of middlemen and tenderpreneurs.

This province was bottom of the class in the 2014 matric results. It is imperative for us to ensure that scholars in the Eastern Cape are given all possible opportunities to get a good education.  This includes getting to and from school.

Today’s media reports of the  granting of an interim interdict by the East London High Court to the Uncedo Taxi Association to prevent the Department of Transport of implementing its alternative “fair share” scholar transport system is a result of poor planning.

Despite requests last year by the DA, Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana has provided no information about plans and timeframes to change to a system where bus- and taxi operators would deal directly with the department when its problematic contract with Eastern Cape Bus and Taxi Business Chamber consortium One Future Development 46 NPC (OFD) finally came to an end on 31 December 2014.

Now, once again, it seems that the department did not follow due process with regards to tender procedures.  As a result, scholars may be left stranded at the beginning of the new school year on 19 January 2015.

In a reply to a legislature question I asked the MEC, she stated that a budget allocation of R356 076 million in the 2014/15 financial year would provide for only 57 176 pupils out of 96 693 in need of scholar transport.

In contrast, in 2011 before the contract was awarded to the OFD consortium, some 110 000 scholars benefitted from scholar transport, at a cost of R250 million.

It stands to reason that the decrease in the number of pupils being transported after 2011 was partly due to the consortium taking its cut of the pie.

The DA urges to MEC Tikana to ensure that it is our children who benefit from the scholar transport rather than third parties by:

  1. Cutting out unnecessary middlemen and ensuring that the bulk of the budget allocation for scholar transport is used for getting children to school;
  2. Ensuring that routes are run efficiently and cost effectively by existing operators.

The DA will continue to demand that proper oversight of scholar transport takes place in the Portfolio Committee for Transport.

The MEC and her department must implement a safe, effective transport system that will benefit all pupils who qualify.