Tag Archive | parliemntary committee on transport

Roads fingered as top culprit in infrastructure “under-spend”

Many will remember last year’s April launch by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) of the S’hamba Sonke (Moving Together) R22bn provincial and municipal roads campaign, due to run for the three years – 2011 to 2014.

Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, in a briefing to the media of the infrastructure development cluster in Cape Town, had to acknowledge recently that at present only R1.7bn had been spent on projects since the programme’s launch leaving over 90% of funds so far unspent, meaning that R6.4bn is still unspent for the 2011/12 fiscal period.

Minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan, had earlier estimated in Parliament after presenting his budget and in his response to the debate, that only 68%, or R178bn, of the R260bn set aside for infrastructure in 2010/11, was actually spent as planned owing to weaknesses in government infrastructure capacity. This theme crosscut all departments, he said

However, it is clear that SANRAL has one of the largest back logs; minister Ndebele estimating that the various levels and contractors had to spend R169bn if SANRAL was to catch up – about the equivalent of 500 000 kms of road.

Minister Ndebele added, in answer to questions from the media, that that the worst-affected areas were typically those outside of the urban nodes of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town.

The forthcoming infrastructure summit would look at various models to get the job done, including the ‘user-pays’ model to address the backlog.

Whilst the problem appeared to be the fact that the work was simply not being done, the minister focused on issues surrounding financing the infrastructure, particularly the issue of tolling. He said, “As South Africans we need a dialogue on how we will pay for this infrastructure development,” he said, referring to the fact that SANRAL had received R5.8bn to reduce debt as a result of its inability to install e-tolling on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).

The proposed tariff had been reduced to 30c/km, capped at R550 a month, for motorists, as a result of public outcry but Minister Ndebele said that government could not listen again to such calls. His department was now focusing on ways to pay for more phases of not only the GFIP but highway projects in Cape Town as well.

The minister said lessons had been learned, but South Africa still needed to reach consensus on how it would pay for the second phase of the GFIP, as well as other urban highway projects. All possible law enforcement loopholes that could prevent the implementation of e-tolling on April 30 this year had to be studied and legislation to allow for road tolling as a permanent feature to assist in funding highways was on its way shortly to Parliament.

At this stage no clear cabinet statement has been issued as a result of the COSATU marches to protest against tolling – a march somewhat confused by labour broking issues, but at the time of the infrastructure development cluster briefing last week, Minister Ndebele seemed unmoved by the possibility of labour backlash against tolling.

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