KZN roads hit a pothole

2010-01-21 00:00

THE pothole problem in KwaZulu-Natal has led the province’s Transport head of department, Chris Hlabisa, to make an impassioned plea for increased funding for roads.

Hlabisa made his plea yesterday, at a standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) meeting, which was reviewing the Auditor-General’s report into his department.

He said that while he is aware that Scopa is not the forum at which to make such a plea, he wants the committee to know that his department is seriously underfunded. “I’ve made this known in the Transport portfolio committee and to Finance and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to tell you that our roads have now exceeded their lifespan,” he said.

He added that every newspaper in the province is reporting on the state of the roads and the pothole problem.

“There has been litigation and we expect a lot more. The department has lost a lot of money in paying out litigants,” he said.

In response to Scopa on a resolution about over-expenditure in the administration section of his department, Hlabisa said the overspending by R63 365 000 was a result of:

• A large claim against the department in respect of a pothole on a provincial road, for which the court ruled in favour of the plaintiff to the tune of R15 million;

• The legal fees that were not adequately budgeted for as a result of the above claim and similar claims against the department; and

• The higher-than-expected public service salary increment.

Hlabisa did not give details of the court case, but it is believed to pertain to the successful application by advocate Allistair McIntosh, who was seriously injured when he crashed his bicycle while trying to avoid a pothole. At the time, the terms of the settlement were kept confidential.

In June 2008, the media reported that claims amounting to R40 million had been brought against the government over damages and injuries resulting from potholes.

Hlabisa told Scopa the province’s road network has exceeded its design lifespan: one could fix a pothole today but by tomorrow there would two or more nearby.

At the end of the meeting, Hlabisa, whose department received an unqualified audit report, said he is satisfied that Scopa is supportive. “I make this plea at all the committee meetings I attend, and even nationally. Without good roads our economy will suffer.”

Scopa expressed concern about over-expenditure of over R600 million in the department. Some members attributed it to bad budgeting and inadequate control at a time when the province is facing an economic crunch.

Since some of the over-expenditure was justified in terms of rising cement and other costs, the committee decided it needs to have a checklist drawn up with criteria as to what constitutes unauthorised over-expenditure.






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