Nelson Mandela Bay Metro: Minister must step in to end chaos in transport system
Note to editors: The following statement was distributed at a press conference hosted in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro this morning by DA Shadow Minister of Transport Ian Ollis MP, DA Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Caucus Leader Leon de Villiers and Caucus Spokesperson Knight Mali. A copy of the document handed out at the press conference can be downloaded here.
The Minister of Transport, S’bu Ndebele, needs to step in to end the chaos surrounding the implementation of the Nelson Mandela Bay Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS).
Significant public funds have been invested in the IPTS in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. An initial grant of R520 million was provided through the Public Transport Infrastructure and System Grant programme in the run-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The 2011/12 to 2013/14 budget of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality allocated R985 million to the IPTS.
Despite this injection of funds, the full implementation of the IPTS system continues to be delayed and the inappropriate infrastructure that has been put in place has become a source of frustration for businesses, drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
Metro Mayor Zanoxolo Wayile is blocking all efforts from the Democratic Alliance and civil society groups to get information on the reasons for the continued delays in the roll-out of the system and the possible rehabilitation of unsuitable infrastructure.
The IPTS system is currently being run as a “mayoral project”. But because national funds have been invested in the IPTS system in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, and large budgets continue to be allocated to the project, we believe that it is time for the Transport Minister to institute a ministerial inquiry into the matter.
During my visit to the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro today, I saw examples of traffic lanes that have been obstructed by IPTS infrastructure and the lack of space for trucks to turn and do deliveries in the North End business district. I was also struck by the vacant buildings that have become characteristic of the Govan Mbeki area, where many labour-intensive businesses have been forced to relocate as a result of disruptions caused by IPTS construction processes and their disastrous outcomes.
The majority of buses that have been purchased for the project remain mothballed as the project continues to stall.
The DA Caucus Leader in the Eastern Cape, Leon de Villiers, has consistently called for greater accountability on the IPTS project. The Council has to date refused to debate the issue, with the mayor himself blocking DA questions on the matter.
Reports indicate that the Infrastructure and Engineering Directorate told the Council last week that only 4% of the R200 million capital budget for the IPTS had been spent by February 29 – four months before the end of the financial year. Budget adjustments still to be approved by the Council reflect the roll-over of R125 million of this budget to the next financial year. The risk of wasteful expenditure remains high as officials will likely scramble to spend the remaining budget of R67 million.
Without appropriate public participation and greater transparency on implementation the weaknesses of the current system are likely to remain.
The Municipal Public Accounts Committee has called for a report on the IPTS, detailing the consequences of the delay, potential subsidy losses and a recovery plan to be submitted to the Infrastructure and Engineering Committee by 31 May.
Minister Ndebele must ensure that this plan answers key questions relating to the project, including:
- The reasons for the delays in the implementation process;
- processes followed in appointing contractors and steps taken to avoid potential conflicts of interest;
- commissions paid and budgeted;
- new timeframes for completion of routes and stations;
- the programme for public consultation; and
- what remedial steps will be taken to ensure more efficient roll-out of the BRT system.
If the deadlines are not met and important questions left unanswered, it may be time for the Minister to call for a formal inquiry into the matter.
Minister Ndebele cannot stand idly by as millions of rands in public money are injected into a project for which there seems to be no effective oversight and that has not created any clear benefits for citizens.
The Minister must ensure that this project is run transparently, that there is sufficient accountability and that it contributes to quality and affordable transport for all. If it does not, the responsible parties must be brought to book.
Issued by the DA, April 20 2012
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