Tag Archive | portfolio committee on transport

Troubled bus industry goes to Parliament

SA bus industry operators in trouble

lowveld-bus-The South African bus system is on the verge of collapse, says the Southern Africa Bus Operators Association (SABOA) and, as the second largest mode of transport in SA behind only taxi transport, this fact was bad news for both commuters and those in industry and commerce whose workers use it extensively, Parliament was told.

Professor Jackie Walters, of the University of Johannesburg and strategic advisor to SABOA, told the portfolio committee on transport that, by its nature, the bus industry in South Africa was partially subsidised and was one of the only countries in the world that seemed to manage on month-to-month contracts.

Subsidies out of date

The bus industry in the past, in order to receive it’s subsidies, worked its calculations on the basis of commuters carried but the industry had slowly switched to contracts where kilometers covered are now the basis for calculation, a preferable system in the industry.  However there had been no extensions or expansion allowed in kilometers covered by subsidies for thirteen years.

Prof. Walters maintained that the bus industry performed a critical role in balancing demand and the pricing system within the public transport system.

The policy applicable to the commuter bus industry was founded on the White Paper on National Transport Policy of 1996, and in a number of other documents such as the Moving South Africa Strategy (MSA), the National Land Transport Transition Act of 2000 (NLTTA) as well as a Model Tender Document and the Heads of Agreement (HOA) between organised labour and the Department of Transport (DOT).

Money disappearing

He told parliamentarians that it was the Southern African Bus Operators Association (SABOA) that regulated aspects of the tendering system but the industry was under stress due to the unintended consequences of Division of Revenue Act (DORA) and the bus contracting system to the government, which was supposed to provide financial stability for industry. Whilst funds may be allocated under DORA to provinces, what happened after that was out of control of central government.

The financial stability intended for the bus industry to provide for commuters was a theory but on the ground quite the opposite was happening, he maintained.   This short-term horizon for the industry made longer-term investment decisions difficult and banks were reluctant to provide funding because of the uncertainty over the future of the contracts.  “No industry can operate on this basis‚” Prof. Walters said.

No windfalls, no shortfalls even

He attributed the problem again to the negative effect of DORA, which left it to provinces to make up the difference between the public transport operations grant allocated to provinces by national treasury and an agreed-upon escalation rate‚ which was linked to increases in the consumer price index.  Provinces continually claimed that they did not have the money to make up the shortfall.

Prof. Walters said the government had not taken into account at any stage the onerous operational cost increases that bus companies had to bear; namely 44% for labour‚ 28% for maintenance and the national escalation on fuel. There had to be risk sharing between government and the operators, he said.

 

No conformity

There were different types of contracts in the industry, he went on to explain, some which were seventeen years old and which were supposed to have been transformed after three years with competitive tendering and negotiation of contracts.

He said that in all there were 39 interim contracts in operation, 66 tender contracts and 10 negotiated contracts. The contract types in operation were based on a user-pays principle regarding the subsidies.

In conclusion, Prof Walters said that above all it was important to get national treasury to acknowledge the contracts and not leave things to the provinces.

DOT to investigate

MPs generally agreed that in the longer term, common ticketing systems over all services in the country generally had to be introduced, similar to that in the BRT system but a short term answer also had to be found to keep the industry alive in terms of the explanations from Dr Walters. 

DOT was told to  report back to Parliament.

Refer previous articles in this category
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/transport-subsidies-to-business-are-wrong-says-parliament/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//bee/all-not-well-in-the-trucking-industry/

Posted in Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

All not well in the trucking industry

Call that corruption exists

trucksIn answer to a call made by the portfolio committee on transport on the state of the trucking industry in South Africa, it became evident from responses by the department of transport (DoT); from the Road Freight Association (RFA) and examples given by an independent small operator, that large truckers dominated in an industry in an unfair manner that was rife with corruption.

Mawethu Vilana, deputy director-general DoT, said that going back to 2002/3, the department had begun an exercise to look at how to provide opportunities and also broaden the space for participation by smaller operators in the road freight sector. It became clear that smaller entrants lacked finance; that an “unscrupulous broking sector was part of the industry” and generally there was a lack of skills and know-how in the trucking industry generally due to poor provision of training facilities and an industry which was undercapitalised except but a few large operators.

DOT not playing proper role

Vilana admitted that when it came to black empowerment opportunities, the main player was the department of trade and industrydot logo (DTI) and not DoT, DTI having the BEE verification control system in their court, DoT playing virtually no part in either reform of the industry or the development of SMME’s.

On the subject of crime, little could be done about bribery and corruption, Vilana admitted under questioning by parliamentarians, unless legislation was beefed up with proper powers and a full, properly constituted investigation carried out into the industry.

Road users must pay

roadsHe also admitted that permit fees were high because of the principle of “user pays” which had been adopted by government “since road truckers caused great damage to the road system.”

Gavin Kelly, RFA said his association had 385 members, with 109 affiliates and 40 associates representing different levels of possible enforcement and ability to develop skills and training but complained of massive permit fees (the last being 412%); large levels of corruption amongst government officers and no value being added by the government’s road agency to the industry in general.

RFA also stated that there appeared to be no proper government road freight strategy and single government officials determined policy without ministerial approval.    Kelly said “no real consultation exists between the state road agency and the industry” and it was the RFA view that DoT “was just going through the motions.”

Trucking group says market closed

One medium sized operator, Tramarco, said that despite heavy investment in trucks and bearing in mind the “ever rising price of

tramarco site

tramarco site

fuel”, it was almost impossible to break into the transport business to obtain long-term “tangible” contracts from major mining groups and state utilities.   They appeared to feel “safer” using old contacts and larger companies and quite clearly favours were being granted, they said.

Their spokesman said that the entire industry was dominated by a number of large trucking groups and smaller entrants were effectively “locked out” of the industry because the industry was either not regulated properly.

AARTO somewhat dubious

They also said the licensing AARTO system was not working properly; there was a lack of legislative enforcement; too many corrupt officials had too much power and there appeared a lack of interest by large companies generally to uplift smaller operators, little interest in encouraging training and building the trucking job market.

Tramarco said that no favours or finance was called for by the medium and small sized companies but merely a fair chance to compete for tenders.   They called on government to provide leverage within its own government departments, state utilities and with industry to break up monopolistic habits and encourage more black empowerment opportunities.

“Large groups and utilities make lots of statements on freeing up the market but nothing happens”, Tramarco said.

MPs demand better skills development

MPs demanded of DoT that concrete steps be taken to assist small entrepreneurs and to provide proof of a record in the area of skills development. “It was clear that little had been done by the DoT in this area”, said one ANC member.

Opposition members said they were convinced that DoT “had no meaningful understanding of what the situation was on the ground.” One MP said the City of Cape Town had provided a solution by cutting the bigger contracts into smaller parts, supplying smaller quantities and increasing the number of entrants slowly. He called on DoT to start thinking of similar solutions on a national scale.

Roads to nowhere

Ruth BhenguChairperson Ruth Bhengu told DoT that the meeting had been called because an examples had been given to parliamentarians whereby “large companies gave small companies short-term contracts and rates that would not take them anywhere and businesses that were desperate could not only pay for their trucks but could not maintain them, the business going ‘broke’ as a result”.

There was also an immoral business broking sector emerging, she felt.

Vilana of DoT said there was nothing government could do to protect such entrepreneurs and that this was the nature of the industry which was high capital risk with a road system that was deteriorating.

The committee found this all very unsatisfactory and called for further meetings with DoT stating that these matters had to be resolved and that the challenges facing the trucking industry were to be investigated further. Also cross-parliamentary meetings with public enterprises and trade and industry committees were to be called. DoT was told it would be re-called for further reports.

Further archived references

http://parlyreportsa.co.za//public-utilities/aarto-amendment-bill-gives-back-up-to-road-law/

http://parlyreportsa.co.za//finance-economic/transport-laws-bill-on-e-tolling-amended/

Posted in Finance, economic, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Transport0 Comments


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