Public Hearings on Infrastructure Bill: Cosatu & SOCs

Cosatu, utilities give nod to infrastructure bill
BUSINESS DAY LIVE BY PAUL VECCHIATTO, 16 JANUARY 2014, 07:57

THE Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), along with Transnet, Rand Water and Telkom have expressed their support for the Infrastructure Development Bill, saying it will help fast-track key projects that will propel the economy.

The four entities voiced their views during Wednesday’s meeting of Parliament’s economic development committee, on the second day of the public hearings into the bill.

All four were worried about the technicalities within the draft legislation which could have adverse effects, such as delaying the implantation of a project.

Areas of concern were that the organisational structure, as envisaged by the bill, such as the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission (PICC), which is chaired by President Jacob Zuma, could be too top-heavy and so delay decisions.

The four bodies were also concerned that the bill was not clear on which organisation would designate a project as being strategic — whether it was the PICC or the steering committees.

Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel introduced the proposed legislation late last year to the National Assembly. The bill, if passed, will formalise and establish in law the PICC. It lays out the powers of the PICC.

When introducing the infrastructure bill last year, Mr Patel said it provided “for the president to nominate members of Cabinet, and include the premiers of provinces and representatives drawn from local government.”

He said this was done to ensure that all three spheres of government were part of the commission.

Mr Patel also said the commission would have to meet regularly to drive the implementation of infrastructure, and also set clear time-frames for government to implement strategic integrated projects.

The government has identified 18 strategic projects that it believes will serve as economic catalysts.

Mr Patel said previously that the government has invested R1-trillion into infrastructure build since 2009 and believes the draft law will help capitalise on that experience.

Cosatu deputy parliamentary liaison officer Matthew Parks said Cosatu believed the infrastructure bill would help create jobs — the most important priorities for the labour federation — but that it was worried that many of the jobs would be temporary.

“What we have seen with programmes such as the extended public works programme, is that many municipal jobs such as street sweepers that were permanent positions are now being done by grannies for payment on an hourly basis, or even for food packages,” Mr Parks said.

He said Cosatu also believed that labour should have a presence within the overall strategic projects’ steering committees to ensure that decent jobs were being created.

Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko said the telecommunications utility was concerned that the decision-making process as envisaged in the bill were too slow.

He pointed out that telecommunications and information technology was a rapidly changing sector and decision-making had to be fast.

Mr Maseko suggested wording in the bill should be changed so that if the PICC designates a project as strategic, it must first determine whether the state, or an organ of state, has the capacity to implement the project, or if it should be put out to tender.

Transnet Group strategy GM Ivindra Naidoo supported Telkom’s view and added that this issue of competency was particularly relevant with regard to the origination of a strategic integrated project.

Mr Naidoo also asked for clarity in the role of the PICC in the expropriation of land.

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