Members of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure and the Select Committee on Transport, Public Administration and Public Works, and Infrastructure have raised concerns with the budget allocation for the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

The committees yesterday received a briefing from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure on its annual performance and strategic plans. Briefing the committees, the department’s Deputy Minister, Ms Noxolo Kiviet, said the annual performance plan has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which may necessitate a budget review.

“Infrastructure will be responsible for economic recovery and jobs creation post COVID-19 and our department will be central to that,” she pointed out. The committee heard that the department hopes to optimise the EPWP and wants to be a customer-sensitive organisation. The department would like to be at the centre of stimulating growth, and infrastructure development will be at the centre of this.

Members of the committees asked questions about various issues, including budgetary items where adjustments will be affected, pending legislation, incidents of corruption, the transfer of budget for the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Council, and prestige projects.

Committee member Mr Mgcini Tshwaku believes that the budget allocation to the EPWP programme is too small to achieve its objectives and would like EPWP jobs to become permanent. The department responded by saying that the programme’s objective is poverty alleviation and that formalising the jobs its provides would have to be debated. Furthermore, the department said it was doing well in the under the circumstances and that it worked with stakeholders including universities.

The department told the committees that there was no finality on the new “smart city”, mentioned by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his February 2020 State of the Nation Address, but that work is ongoing.

The department also said that work is continuing on various outstanding Bills and that the Expropriations Bill has been tabled at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), as per Cabinet’s instruction. Nedlac is engaging all constituencies in a bid to finalise the report, which will then be given to the executive authority for submission to the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Sibongile Maputi
14 May 2020