GoDurban: Who will account for the underspent R300 million grant funding returned to National Treasury?

Issued by Cllr Thabani Mthethwa – DA eThekwini Chief Whip
05 Feb 2020 in Press Statements

Note to Editors: Please find attached a sound clip in English by Thabani Mthethwa, DA eThekwini Chief Whip.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in eThekwini is deeply concerned and disappointed by what we consider to be a lack of progress with regards to the city’s Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network ( IRPTN) or GoDurban.

At inception, it promised to provide flexible, safe and cost-effective public transport to the people of eThekwini. This is critical giving the spatial layout of our city, where many people find themselves far away from opportunities and having to spend a large portion of their income on transport.

The first route of this project was supposed to be operational in 2018. Since then there have been numerous delays as a result of work stoppages because of (amongst other things), disputes with taxi operators, the notorious so-called business forums, and the failures of contractors. The DA’s council amendments to look into the political relationships between Councillors and business forums fell on deaf ears.

It must be noted however that when this project was launched back in 2013, we as the opposition warned the ANC against rushing to launch this before properly consulting all stakeholders including the taxi industry. Allegations have also been made that these business forums which are costing the city and crippling our economy are working with some in the ANC, which is clearly outlined in the investigative report that led to Zandile Gumede’s arrest. It seems clear that a lot of these delays could have been avoided by proper planning, clean governance and heeding good advice.

In June of 2019, we were assured that the project would be fully operational in September 2019. It is now five months later and not a single route is properly operational.

What is even more painful is the fact that according to the report of the Auditor General of the last financial year, eThekwini returned more R300 million of the grant allocated to this project to the National Treasury because eThekwini failed to spend that money. That is money we could have and should have spent on development, that is now lost.

The City’s Audit Committee Report paints a similarly poor picture of our IRPTN progress. All three corridors (C1, C3, C9) are underspent and do not have ‘stages of completion’ provided for. The C1 Corridor (Bridge City to CBD) budget has increased from R147 million to R534 million, clearly showing how delays and issues have wreaked havoc. The C9 Corridor (Bridge City to Umhlanga) is listed as having a budget increase of R20 million.

The budget statement report tabled in January also flags that there are ‘delays’ in the process to purchase the 72 busses required for IRPTN. This has been an ongoing issue. This means that where the infrastructure is developed and ready, no actual services can start because there are no busses. The city is, therefore, paying for cleaning, maintenance, and security for facilities that are sitting dormant. This is a ludicrous state of affairs. People should be accessing affordable, quality services.

The great irony is that the ANC, at last month’s Council meeting, agreed to take out a further R500 million loan for infrastructural development whilst they cannot spend interest-free grants from the national government.

It’s clear that the IRPTN/ GoDurban is not in a good way. Whilst other cities- even some smaller ones- have a functioning and organized IRPTN bus system, Durban cannot get its act together. The failure to spend R300 Million grant funding is a disgrace- who is going to be held accountable?