Infrastructure Development Bill to cut red tape

Land expropriation tool….

BS000318Armed with a new tool, the Infrastructure Development Bill, government is hoping to speed up infrastructure projects by cutting red tape; shorten approval times; hit the corruption chain; force quicker decision making; and change the system by which expropriation of land takes place observing correct ground rules.

The new Bill with all of these objectives in mind has been tabled by economic development minister, Ebrahim Patel, and will grant statutory powers to a special Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordination Commission to address project management and regulatory delays challenges; coordinate the issuing of permits and licences; deal with resolution of land servitudes; bring the three tiers of government into better working relationships; improving co-ordination between public entities and improving cooperative governance in an overall sense.

Cracking down on corruption

The Bill was described by President Zuma in his state of the nation address.   He said, “We are cracking down on corruption, tender fraud and price fixing in the infrastructure programme. The state has collected a substantial dossier of information on improper conduct by large construction companies. This is now the subject of formal processes of the competition commission and other law enforcement authorities.”

Minister Patel’s statement, when tabling the Bill, said that “focused project management systems and clear performance dashboards” were being built up so that projects in hand could be monitored. Opportunities for the private sector were now being investigated and a conference would be held by government to bring about such a processes with business and industry.

Constitutional process

On the issue of expropriation of land, the Bill states it is being careful to follow constitutionally accepted procedures but Minister Patel said that bearing in mind expropriation can only occur for a public process, in order to speed matters up the process will be taken as a “given” and where such an action is involved, this will be handled on a “post development basis”, the state taking the risk of losses or losing cases.

The actual workings of the Bill envisage a statutory process led by a steering committee that can override and intervene in statutory matter affecting development, the principle being to cut down on time lag and legal obstacles.

No frills

The Bill is relatively telegraphic in its preamble and simply states the Bill is intended to “provide for the facilitation and co-ordination of infrastructure development which is of significant economic or social importance to the Republic; to ensure that infrastructure development in the Republic is given priority in planning, approval and implementation; and to ensure that development goals of the State are promoted through infrastructure development.

The Bill immediately gets down to the business of forming the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordination Commission and the first issue to be dealt with under “objectives” is the question of the acquisition of land, making it relatively transparent where infrastructure development delays might have been occurring.

Top team

The makeup of the commission also leaves little doubt on the intent that the Commission has to exercise its powers, its body made up of the President, the Deputy President; ministers designated by the President; the premiers of the provinces and the
chairperson of SALGA.

The President, or in his or her absence the Deputy President, is the chairperson of the Commission and a decision by the majority of the members present at a meeting of the Commission is a decision of the Commission.

The Bill will enable the Commission to tie in various government department to binding decisions. One has to assume that by giving such powers to the commission over the department of public enterprises, all state utilities therefore be subject to common actions.

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