Patel moots infrastructure bill

Cape Town - A proposed law meant to fast-track the implementation of the government's infrastructure development plan was introduced in the National Assembly by Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel on Wednesday.

The infrastructure development bill, if passed, will formalise and establish in law the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission (PICC).

It spells out the powers of the PICC, chaired by President Jacob Zuma.

"It provides for the president to nominate members of cabinet, and includes the premiers of provinces and representatives drawn from local government. This is done to ensure that all three spheres of government are part of the commission...," Patel said.

The commission would have to meet regularly to drive the implementation of infrastructure, he said.

The proposed law also sets clear time-frames for government to implement strategic integrated projects (SIPs).

"To date, the PICC has identified 18 SIPs which bring together hundreds of separate construction projects, which include improving schools across the country, opening the northern mining belt or developing the south eastern coastal regions," Patel told MPs.

The PICC will also be given the power to expropriate land needed for a specific SIP, which has raised eyebrows in opposition benches.

Patel assured MPs this power would not be abused.

"Because many infrastructure projects require land, it provides for the PICC to expropriate land required, but makes such power subject to the constitution and any act of parliament specifically dealing with expropriation...," Patel said.

The bill also seeks to tackle corruption related to the key projects.

"It contains clear mechanisms to avoid conflicts of interest between decision-makers and the underlying projects, as part of government's anti-corruption drive," said the minister.

"It provides for tough penalties for corruption, including imprisonment for up to five years."

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