Ndebele warns provinces over poor roads plan

THE government plans to force provinces and municipalities to maintain their roads, Minister of Transport, S'busiso Ndebele said yesterday.

He told reporters before his budget speech to Parliament that he was looking at ways to "ring fence" funds for road repair that would not be available for new roads.

He said road maintenance funds were easily diverted by provinces and municipalities and needed to be protected to ensure that roads do not deteriorate further.

"Nobody sees maintenance," he said. "You spend R100million on maintenance and nobody even notices that you have done something, whereas if you build 20km of new road people see it.

"So there is always that tendency to build new roads and neglect maintenance."

Mangisi Mahlalela, director-general of transport, said the country faced a maintenance backlog of about R75billion.

Mahlalela said the department was still talking to the Nnational Treasury about ways of ensuring that road maintenance is not neglected.

"We are not only talking about additional, new money for roads. We are also talking about better utilisation of existing funds," Mahlalela said.

"When the chips are down and there are other challenges, the easiest target is the maintenance budget."

He said the 17000km national road network was well managed and monitored, but that there were proper records covering only four percent of secondary roads.

"It is about restructuring the whole process and the management of those assets," he said.

The management of the country's network of roads is split between national, provincial and local authorities.

Provincial and local municipality road maintenance is funded out of a share of the national revenue given to each province to cover a wide range of expenses.