‘R13bn to mend NW roads’

2009-09-12 14:08

THE North West roads department needs R13.5 billion to repair, build and maintain its road infrastructure, which is near collapse.

This comes as the department has already exhausted its budget for the current financial year and now needs more funding from the provincial treasury to improve the condition of the province’s roads.

This week chief director for roads management Eddie Thebe was suspended and a forensic investigation was instituted to find out how tender rules were flouted in awarding road-construction contracts.

The province has 20 689km of roads – 14 191km of which are gravel and only 6?389km of which are tarred. About 80% of the dirt roads need urgent regravelling, while 28% of tarred roads require resurfacing.

In July the provincial treasury raised concerns after the roads ­department spent 68% of its current allocation within four months, and it demanded a plan for scaling down on expenses.

In response, roads head of department Nic van Staden said the department would exceed its current roads infrastructure budget by R310?million by March next year.

Van Staden proposed that some of its ongoing projects not linked to the 2010 Soccer World should be suspended and that his department be allowed to negotiate a bail-out loan from the banks.

A document by programme manager Tau Pride handed to Thebe in June indicated that the department required an urgent cash injection of R7.7 billion to repair tarred roads and to do light and heavy rehabilitation. It proposed that an additional R5.8 billion was required to tar gravel roads and do regravelling.

“It is imperative that additional funding be made available to address backlog maintenance as soon as possible in order to arrest the rate of deterioration of the road network,” the report warned.

The report further showed that road upgrades linked to next June’s soccer spectacular required an ­additional R1.1 billion in order to be completed on time.

The deteriorating road conditions have been attributed to delays in getting funds from government and the lack of consistent road maintenance. North West is at the top of a list of provinces that fail to maintain their roads, according to a 2008 survey by the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA).

The report says the road network in the province has “now fallen into the stage where total reconstruction is required”.

“The current budget has not been able to satisfy these needs and this has resulted in the increase in backlog maintenance,” reads the letter.

“This has led to the development of backlog maintenance resulting in the current need for about R1.3 billion annually for six years to restore the network.”

This week provincial roads MEC Mahlakeng Mahlakeng said the decision to suspend Thebe was motivated by his “incapacity” and “poor management of resources, proper planning and general laxity”.

Thebe failed to respond to questions despite asking City Press to send them to him.

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