Infrastructure must be maintained with climate change in mind

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister, Patricia de Lille, says recent flooding in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal has highlighted the importance of building and maintaining public infrastructure with the mitigation of changing climate patterns in mind.

The Minister was presenting the department’s budget for the 2022/23 financial year in the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon.

The floods took the lives of at least 443 people and destroyed public infrastructure including schools and housing.

“Recent events have again laid bare the importance of infrastructure and ensuring that we not only build new infrastructure but maintain existing infrastructure. We must build and maintain infrastructure taking the severe impacts of climate change into consideration,” she said.

De Lille said the department has been hard at work in both provinces in support of reconstruction and relief efforts.

“A database of over 300 built environment professionals has been made available to COGTA [Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs] to help assess, scope, cost, design and implement critical reconstruction and building of damaged infrastructure. Departmental resources will focus on the current 53 government owned buildings in KZN and the 12 government owned buildings in Eastern Cape, which have been damaged by the floods to make them usable.

“The department has also identified 258 land parcels while the KZN Department of Public Works and Human Settlements have identified a further 25 land parcels. These land parcels are being assessed for suitability for the resettlement of displaced communities by the Housing Development Agency (HDA),” she said.

The Minister highlighted that furthermore, the construction of 18 bridges in KZN will commence at the beginning of June, at least 20 bridges have been assessed in the Eastern Cape and that more capacity has been assigned to the two provinces’ Transport Departments.

Furthermore, the Minister told the National Assembly that a final report on the damages caused by the fire, which ravaged Parliament’s buildings earlier this year, is being processed.

Budget highlights

The Minister presented the department’s budget to the NA and highlighted that it includes:

  • Some R8.5 billion in terms of the Appropriation Bill of which R7.4 billion is earmarked for transfers and subsidies with the rest dedicated to paying salaries and goods and services
  • The total budget allocation for the Property Management and Trading Entity (PMTE) is some R23.5 billion with R19 billion of that coming from client departments

“The biggest source for the PMTE budget is received through revenue from accommodation charges for client departments using [the department’s] buildings.

“In terms of last financial year’s expenditure, the department managed to spend 97% of the adjusted budget and PMTE’s expenditure in the last financial year was 89%,” she said.

De Lille revealed that as of March this year, departments utilising the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) buildings and infrastructure owe the department at least R8.3 billion.

“More than 60% of the amount relates to old claims for previous years. For the financial year 2021/22 under review, R21.5 billion was invoiced to client departments, of which R18.4 billion (85%) was recovered.

“Late reimbursements affects DPWI’s ability to provide quality services and settle invoices to service providers and municipalities,” she said.

Expanded Public Works Programme

She revealed that the department has allocated at least R3 billion to the employment providing Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) for the 2022/23 financial year and revealed that more than a million “work opportunities” were provided in the last year.

“In the 2021/22 financial year, the overall target for work opportunities in EPWP was 1 009.

“Out of these work opportunities, provinces and municipalities combined have reported 634 546 work opportunities,” she said.

Shelters for GBV victims

As part of government’s response to the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa, the Minister said the department will be stepping up its efforts to release properties which will be converted into shelters for GBV survivors and victims.

“DPWI has identified 83 properties in the past year to be allocated for shelters for victims of GBV and the Department of Social Development has selected 47 properties to be used as shelters.

“The department will prepare and release more properties this year across the country for Social Development to utilise in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide and we call on provinces and municipalities to also release some of their own buildings for GBV purposes,” she said. -