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Where IS the road money going?

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Where IS the road money going?With the mammoth budgets allocated to provincial roads, one has to ask where it’s going – and why, with energising case studies such as that of the village of eManguze in Zululand, those in charge of the purse-strings aren’t jumping up and down in their eagerness to spend it all.

I completed an interesting exercise the other day. I had a look at the various provincial budgets and their allocations – specifically to roads, infrastructure development and maintenance. Obviously, this follows on from the R74 issue I spoke about last month … (Honourable Members, I am still awaiting your responses.)

Combined, the provincial allocations – excluding Medium-Term Expenditure Framework grants from the Treasury, municipal cash and the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) work – come in at just over R18,5 billion.

Man alive! That can buy a lot of road-marking paint, signs, gravel and tar! With a fair whack left over for concrete …

So the question that just begs to be asked is this: with provincial budgets approved months ago, when do they actually start spending it on work? We’re not seeing the action on the ground. If anything, the one thing that’s quite noticeable is the rapid deterioration of our road network. In Gauteng alone, the visual quality of the province’s roads has deteriorated to the extent that, by the authorities’ own admission, more than 30 percent are now classified as being in a poor to very poor condition. And they got that way in just five years.

The next question: who provides oversight on the process? Does it all boil down to the Auditor General’s report the following year, by which time it’s too late to fix anything? Is the only thing a provincial government gets rated on based on an unqualified audit? It shouldn’t be. I really do feel very strongly about service delivery, especially when the taxpayer is the contributor. It’s criminal that through ineptitude, mismanagement and corruption, lives are not only lost on our roads but that communities are not being allowed to progress.

Mobility brings prosperity, but what chance do you have if access roads are impassable – get a donkey? A case study is the village of eManguze in Zululand, just south of the Kosi Bay border post. Once a settlement serviced by a general dealer, clinic and very little else, it has been transformed into a bustling town with a choice of shops and fuel stations, as well as a functional hospital. Very few of the original shanty homes are left; most have been replaced by brick buildings.

All because the road to the border was upgraded from a sand track to an all-weather road, built using mostly local labour (jobs, money, food on the table; sustenance, hope!). A mere 13 km is all it took to bring prosperity to a village in Zululand. eManguze is thriving because it became accessible by vehicle, not donkey!

What’s more, despite the unemployment and poverty issues, the entrepreneurial spirit continues to thrive there, sustaining the life of the town. Roads liberate communities. That’s the difference a road makes.

 


SKID MARKS is a regular column in which Gary Ronald presents his personal and sometimes jaundiced view on transport, safety and mobility. Ronald has a wealth of experience in these fields has presented numerous papers both locally and internationally. He’s been with the AA since 2000 and is currently its head of public affairs. All comments published here reflect his own opinion, and not that of the AA. FOCUS appreciates his witty, topical and sometimes irreverent stance on the industry. If you’d like to respond to whatever punches he throws, visit www.focusontransport.co.za.

 

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