Transport forums are ideal communication platforms for a district and its local authorities to exchange ideas, information and plan collaboratively. The role of well-functioning and proactive transport forums in strengthening transport service delivery in the three districts appears to have been clearly underestimated.
Although active, the transport forums are currently not working particularly well especially in local municipalities. There appears to be a disjuncture in terms of proper consultation between, for instance, NDM, the community and stakeholders. This can also be illustrated by for example, that there is little or no proper consultation when handing over of certain assets the administrative formalities could have been concluded but not communicated to the district or even local authority for that matter until there is an issue e.g. communities coming to voice their concern over an asset that may not be performing as expected" that is when it is revealed that that asset had long been handed over to another administrator such as SANRAL. Such types of oversight tend to undermine the legitimate work that a forum might be bent on doing.
Transport forums in municipalities are almost completely non-functional. The district currently goes out to solicit information from local authorities about transport issues that affect the whole district since the district is only responsible for the transport function of one municipality Thembisile Local Municipality. Other governance issues relate to:
Spheres of government are independent entities according to the constitution they therefore can choose to ignore the coordinating role of the district, which they often do.
The political layer can certainly make coordination difficult unless the district has access to resources which the local authority does not have
Often the district has a transport function in their organogram but as indicated above, transport planning is not always on the priority list of decision makers no value is placed on transport planning as transport often means funding a traffic department (manpower, equipment, etc), and
While cooperative governance is learned art however there has to be demonstrated commitment on both sides to make it work overtime" at the moment this is not apparent.
Collaboration and synergy between provincial, district and local authority transportation project implementation is decidedly laboured each one of the players is overly protective of their given turf a phenomenon that was confirmed by DPWRT Ehlanzeni District office.
The need to strengthen the Transport Forum as an instrument to foster collaboration and synergy in planning and implementation through participation and engagement of all stakeholders cannot be over-emphasized. DPWRT district offices should spearhead the strengthening of these institutions by actively participating and bankrolling its secretariat work given the rewards they would reap from its facilitative role a balancing act underpinned by cooperation, co-creation and co-management.
Internal budgeting: This would have been an ideal situation through the auspices of the IDP where municipalities could be funding their infrastructure requirements. However, rural municipalities tax base is so narrow they are unable to generate enough revenues to fund their infrastructure requirements. Even if it were the case, part of the challenge is that transport per se is not perceived (by councillors and communities alike) as a priority let alone freight (the need for capacity building therefore through transport forums cannot be over-emphasized).
This was confirmed by all the districts transport planning occupies a low rung on community developmental priorities way behind water and sanitation and health. Little wonder then that transport components of the IDP are often weak. They depend largely on grants to meet their needs, for example, the transport planning directorate at Ehlanzeni is likely to secure a R2m grant for transport this financial year which is not nearly enough for their requirements. Given that the Province is no longer going to fund the district (100 percent of this coming from equitable share), innovative ways of seeking funding are needed since funding is scarce. One way of attracting funding is to undertake feasibility studies of specific problem areas with a view to generating solution options that can be sold/marketed to various funding agencies thus increasing the chances of securing funding for the project in question because projects would have been:
Another way is partnerships with donors which demands pro-activity and knowledge of the sector.
The district office has a challenge to utilize the allocated budget because of staffing shortages (chief engineer, principal engineer, technicians, etc.) whereas the office has vacancies for 6-8 technicians, they only have 2 currently. The district budget is insufficient to attract and support proficient technical personnel. DPWRT needs to generate and implement a staff attraction and retention strategy.
In the meantime, DPWRT has resorted to hiring consultants to assist the district office to plug the skills gap but officials are rather sceptical about what the consultants can accomplish. The need to up the ante on training cannot be over-emphasized. While a research function would be beneficial to the operations of the district office, it currently does not exist, and because of the manpower shortages, it is unlikely to happen soon. The district office is currently running at between 30 percent and 40 percent under capacity in technical fields especially in maintenance.
Like TRAC, relatively heavily trafficked provincial and local authority roads need to be marked and even equipped with public phones to enable the public to get in touch with the owner of the road " a channel for reporting, for example, an accident, existence of potholes, a tree that has fallen onto the road, rocks that have rolled onto the road, a bridge has collapsed, etc. or raise any issue that the public may deem necessary to win and procure the same.
An exercise designed to revisit the road register, classification and ownership assignment is necessary to ensure responsibilities are carried through.
Nkangala does not have any road management systems it relies on the province for this service i.e. bridge and pavement management systems. It however, has a visual pavement management system for Thembisile where the district has full responsibilities for the transportation function just like any other local municipality by way of a declaration by the provincial government (MECs for Transport / Local Government).
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