NEWS & ANALYSIS

DA welcomes govt theft of its Road Maintenance Fund idea

Stuart Farrow commends transport minister for dedicated fund plan

DA welcomes Ndebele's announcement on Road Maintenance Fund

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the announcement by the Minister of Transport, S'bu Ndebele in his Budget Vote speech yesterday that he has approached the National Treasury with the view of opening discussions for the establishment a dedicated Road Maintenance Fund for purposes of tackling South Africa's road maintenance backlog, now estimated to be R75-billion at national and provincial level.

The DA has in the last ten years repeatedly called for the establishment of this fund and it is refreshing to see that the ANC government appears to at last be taking the correct action to address this serious infrastructure backlog as evidenced by the innumerable potholes littering South African roads. Poor roads affect everyone and for years the ANC government has neglected this critical component of our economic infrastructure; hopefully, by acting soon and decisively it can turn the situation around.

The DA's policy reads:

South Africa's road network is deteriorating because of inadequate funding and rising costs of construction and maintenance. The state has increasingly relied on private concessions to deal with this backlog, thus pricing road usage beyond what many can afford. The DA will:

  • Establish a dedicated Road Maintenance Fund, sourced primarily from the fuel levy, which will enable South Africa to eliminate the R120bn maintenance backlog over six years.
  • Ensure that if toll road concessions are to be considered, a percentage of their profits must go towards community development or a pool for subsidising rural transport.

In his speech in Parliament, the Minister said: "We are working with Treasury to consider various options; including a dedicated Road Infrastructure Maintenance Fund to deal with the road maintenance backlog and challenges at provincial and local level...We are looking at a ring-fenced mechanism which will set aside dedicated funds for road maintenance."

It is becoming increasingly clear that the ANC is coming round to the DA's way of thinking on some of the most pressing issues facing the country.

In order to make this commitment a reality, the Minister now needs to determine exactly what the condition of South Africa's road are; in other words, conduct a full audit. Such an audit will require the cooperation of all three spheres of government - local, provincial and national - for different roads fall under different jurisdictions; nevertheless, a comprehensive analysis must be done in order to properly identify what the priorities are and allocate monies appropriately. Second, he needs to explain exactly how the fund would appropriate the money and how much it would need. The current road infrastructure backlog is estimated at R75 billion, so whatever the amount, it is going to have to be substantial.

I will pursue both these issues through parliamentary questions to both the Ministers of Transport and Finance.

The DA believes in and cares about safe, reliable and accessible public transport because it is the key to opportunity. However, years of bad planning and bad political and state administration has led to a situation in which most of our hard infrastructure is marked by decay.

This has resulted in huge financial backlogs. The remedy to this infrastructure backlog is a move that the DA has continually called for - the establishment of a dedicated road maintenance fund encompassing funds ring-fenced from the national fiscus for the specific purpose of road maintenance, to be bolstered with funds from the fuel levy, public-private partnerships and state-guaranteed money-market loans. This is a necessity that the ANC government up until now has ignored. The DA hopes that the Minister is not merely paying lip-service to instituting this solution to South Africa's road maintenance backlog and will back this promise up with the establishment of the fund.

The DA is however concerned that according to an audit carried out by the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) only four percent of municipalities audited their road networks to determine maintenance needs. It is imperative that, before the fund is established, a formal, national quality audit of all South African roads is undertaken so as to establish what the specific distance of South African roads is in very poor condition. A recent reply from the Department revealed that a meagre eight percent of roads were in an optimal state of repair.

Statement issued by Stuart Farrow, MP, Democratic Alliance shadow minister of transport, April 14 2010

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