DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature:
The below speech was delivered by Leona Kleynhans (MPL) during the debate on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill 2015/16 in the Free State Provincial Legislature today.
We welcome the budget of R2,4 billion for the Department of Police, Roads and Transport for 2015/2016.
The 70% of the budget allocated to construction and maintenance is certainly positive, although we agree with the department that ‘this is not nearly enough’ to meet its mandated responsibility considering the huge backlog with regards to roads infrastructure.
The entire amount of R1,3 billion going to construction and maintenance comes from national government in the form of Provincial Roads Maintenance Grants.
In a recent portfolio committee meeting it emerged that with only one month to go to this year-end, only 83% of this year’s PRMG had been spent. We certainly hope that the final 17% was spent before year end.
The Finance Bill approved this month saw R28 million of unspent conditional grant funding from the 2012/2013 year being returned to the National Deptartment.
This is unacceptable considering the backlog on roads maintenance in the province, and is an indication of sub-optimal planning and implementation by the department. The department must ensure that its planning is 100% in place so that we can apply for, get and spend every possible cent we can get our hands on.
With concern we read in the annual performance plan that only 51% of the roads are currently being maintained. This means that 49% of the roads are not being maintained.
The MEC reported that as at the end of 2011, of the 6370 km of provincial tarred road in the Free State, 70% of these roads are in a poor to non-trafficable state.
It appears that some of the worst roads in the province are not included in the list of planned projects.
MEC Zwane said last week that only 15% of the provincial surfaced roads are poor. It seems that MEC Zwane does not travel a lot, or he has included the national roads in the province in his wildly optimistic assessment.
While the national roads are indeed being upgraded, maintained and rehabilitated, our provincial roads are still being severely neglected. If it were not for the national roads running through the province we would probably not be able to get from one end of the Free State to the other.
We welcome the R74 – Oliviershoek reconstruction at a cost of R85 million planned for this year, and have noted that the contractor is already on site, however, it is indeed a tragedy that so much damage has already been done to the economy and especially tourism in the region.
We hope that when the project is complete in a few years’ time the tourism industry in that area can be rebuilt from scratch.
While we all have high expectations for the implementation of the Harrismith Logistics Hub Public Private Partnership, we see that only R4 million of the total project cost of R26 million has been allocated for this year. Although this has been hailed as a flagship project and forms part of the Maluti-a-Phofung Special Economic Zone, we read that only now has R5 million been allocated for advisors to be appointed with a view to identify possible investors.
We reiterate our call for an independent audit of the provincial roads. This was last done in 2009 when it was found that 63% of the surfaced roads in the province were in a poor to very poor condition.
Our reason for this call is to enable the department to properly assess its performance in maintaining the roads in the past six years, and to prioritise its budget allocations to the roads which are in the worst condition and have the highest impact on the economy.
This audit should, in fact, be done every year. The question is – what audit figures is the department using in its applications for national funding? Surely not these six year old figures?
With regards to the provincial mandate to oversee and monitor the performance of the SAPS, we welcome the 20 research projects on policing needs, effectiveness and impact of policies, as reported in the annual performance plan of the department. We hope that these research projects will highlight the need for the police to be better trained and better resourced.
As an example we see a large number of new police vehicles stored at a police station in Mangaung while police stations are crying out for more vehicles.
Our investigations recently showed that the flying squad – also known as 10111 – is operating with two vehicles.
This department must intervene to ensure that in the future the despatch of those vehicles is speeded up urgently.
Despite the challenges faced by police members we have recently seen a number of successful arrests within hours of violent farm attacks and armed robberies in the province.
We salute these policemen and women who have not allowed deficiencies in the police service to deter them from their very important task of protecting citizens. We must ensure that these brave men and women receive our full support in ensuring they get the necessary training and resources to carry out their important work.
On the issue of transport regulations, we welcome the news that 10 testing stations are now equipped to test the roadworthiness of trucks as well as the three weighbridges in the province which are now calibrated and fully operational.
These facilities are not only intended to add to the revenue base of our province, and contribute to our ability to maintain the roads, but also to ensure that the vehicles using our roads are roadworthy.
We acknowledge the unqualified audit finding of the Auditor- General in the 2013-2014 report.
We are, however, very concerned about the findings related to supply chain management and procurement. The persistent problems with non-compliance in this area, not only in this department, but province wide, needs to be seriously addressed.
The department must ensure compliance with all laws and regulations in this regard in order to ensure a clean audit report. Furthermore, the lack of consequences for transgressions has been highlighted by the Auditor-General as a reason for concern.
Where officials have not complied with the law, action must be taken. Pleading ‘not knowing’ is no valid excuse at all. Irregular, unauthorised or wasteful expenditure must be investigated and those responsible must – pay back the money.
We are extremely concerned about transparency with regards to the advertisement of tenders and awarding of contracts. Even the Portfolio Committee is having difficulty in obtaining this information which must by law be made public.
Attempts to withhold this information are driving perceptions of corruption and nepotism. Until these tenders and contracts are fully disclosed as required by law, these allegations will not go away.
Another concern is the continued appointment of people without the relevant competencies. Where potential employees claim to have certain qualifications, these claims must be thoroughly investigated and verified.
We have also been told that three cases of criminal conduct by employees are the subject of disciplinary proceedings. Why are the police not investigating these alleged criminal cases? In terms of the law any alleged crime must be reported to the police.
The Democratic Alliance welcomes the budget as tabled, and believes that the department will note our concerns and act upon them to ensure better financial management and better service delivery.
The Finance MEC, Elzabe Rockman, in her budget speech said: ‘the Department of Police, Roads and Transport is responsible for the construction and maintenance of our roads infrastructure in the Free State for enhanced economic activity.’
Let us take this responsibility seriously, and thereby contribute to job creation for our people.