The Portfolio Committee on Transport has raised concerns about the non-implementation of the Rural Transport Strategy for South Africa.
The Committee was informed during a briefing by the Department of Transport that only a small part of the pilot phase of the strategy (approved by Cabinet in 2007) was implemented, mainly due to the lack of funding. It is estimated that only R35 million was allocated to fund the strategy since adoption. The Department also highlighted that they only played a coordination, policy making and monitoring role, and do not have the mandate to order provincial and local authorities on what should be implemented.
The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Ruth Bhengu, questioned this understanding of the Department’s role as there are structures such as MINMEC as well as the Intergovernmental Relations Framework and IDP Forums at municipality level created to address the coordination and uniformity among the different spheres of government. Members of the Committee agreed that such a good strategy (and others similar to it) will remain “paper strategies” if no funding was made available to support implementation.
“To me, it does not make sense that Cabinet approved a strategy which Treasury does not fund. This would mean strategies approved at Cabinet level remain on paper and can’t be implemented. A strategy that cannot be implemented due to whatever reason be it lack of funds, skills or material resources will not have the intended positive impact on the lives of our people. We therefore need to look at what prevents Treasury to fund a strategic plan approved by Cabinet, so blame is not apportioned to the department for failure to implement, but instead hold Treasury accountable for failing to provide the necessary funding,” said Ms Bhengu.
Lack of adequate skills at provincial and local levels was also raised as one of the obstacles standing in the way of the implementation of the strategy. This led to a situation where money intended for actual implementation being used to bring in consultants to assist with the technical skills. “The issue of the need for South Africa to build the type of skills that are needed to build the economy of the country was identified in 2001 by then President Thabo Mbeki. It cannot be raised as a reason for over usage of consulting engineers by Department of Transport,” said Ms Bhengu.
The Committee has requested the Department to return and brief the Committee on what it intends doing to implement the strategy.