Tag Archive | presidential infrastructure co-ordination commission

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.

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Energy, Enviro,Water, Health, Land,Agriculture, Mining, beneficiation, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Sovereign rating time after budget and SONA

SONA and Budget 2013/4 beat the pundits…   

zuma2With budget behind us, the script for the state of nation address (SONA) becomes a little clearer.

At the time SONA wasn’t what was expected and represented to many a total let down insofar as direction, information and inspiration was concerned.   President Zuma’s speech was really quite remarkable for the subjects it didn’t touch upon or skirted around.   Perhaps that’s what happens when a majority party is half way through its current tenure of office.

In all fairness, however, there is so much that is about to happen in South Africa on infrastructure development and so much “in the pipeline”, that there was little the current government could do other than recycle the list of eighteen major projects that the twenty seven government departments and sixteen utilities having been talking about for months, sometimes years, all of which seem in a pretty embryonic stage. The hope is that when it all comes together, it won’t be too late.

NERSA played a trump card

On energy, little was said – in fact practically nothing at all that was not patently obvious such as the fact that Medupi and Kusile are being built. In fact nothing was said on electricity at all, the reason for which was to become evident in the NERSA decision the following week when Eskom’s multi year price determination call of 16% was toned down to 8%.

Dangerous budget

pravon gordhanAlso the following week and following SONA came Pravin Gordhan’s budget with its surprising nil increase on income tax, severe budget cuts, the introduction of carbon tax and an increased fuel levy. Once again the National Development Plan was heavily emphasised and perhaps at last government is going to get on with it with a new presidential infrastructure co-ordination commission to support the initiative.

The Budget was in some ways masterful but still frightens the credit rating agencies, with Gordhan trying to balance the books after an increased deficit over the previous year, something the new government used to pride itself on not needing under finance minister Trevor Manuel – but times change and the global recession arrived.

Executive powers

Interesting for Parliament is the introduction of the draft Infrastructure Development Bill giving extraordinarily wide powers to an all-powerful commission to be known as the presidential infrastructure co-ordination commission, as stated above, with all nine premiers, the President and Deputy President steering the ship in an effort to cut red tape and speed things up.

This can only be good, if only for the fact that the captain of the ship can speak alone to the twenty seven departments and sixteen utilities described above.

Public Service too big

Which leads to the issue of a somewhat bloated public service which has had the benefit of above-inflation increases this year, so it was pleasing to see that a skills audit of public servants is about to be commenced amongst the 1.2m public servants, which in a country of only 51m, is totally disproportionate.

Public Service and administration minister Lindiwe Sisulu told Parliament that the increase of 1% per year in salaries has to be turned into a decrease of 1% next year.

Encouragingly also, planning minister Trevor Manuel (who has but ten staff) has clearly indicated that he is relying on the parliamentary oversight system to beef up his programme to wake up to the National Development Plan.  How well Parliament scrutinizes the national budget in the coming weeks in every parliamentary portfolio committee demanding both value for money and delivery on time, every time, is now the critical issue.

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables0 Comments


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