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Councillors and officials to spend R1 mil on study tour

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BARRY VILJOEN
>>barryv.observer@gmail.com

A study group comprising of five councillors and five officials of Polokwane Municipality is bound to visit Germany and the Netherlands during July in order to gain exposure to international standards of integrating transport and non-motorised transport (NMT) systems. The 11 day study tour will cost the city close to R1 million.
During a council meeting last Friday, it was resolved that Executive Mayor Thembi Nkadimeng will lead the group on its visit to Frankfurt and Wiesbaden in Germany and Utrecht, Zwolle, Houten, Amersfoort and Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
In an impressive, illustrated report that occupied 21 pages of the agenda the tour is motivated as follows: “A need has arisen for investigations and learning of lessons internationally from other similar projects that integrate the Integrated Rapid Public Transport System (IRPTS) and NMT in order to improve movement, socio-economic status of users and local economy. It is vital that councillors and officials be kept abreast of the latest ideas and designs, so that the specifications chosen for the IPRTS in Polokwane are able to include the latest appropriate infrastructure, standards, automatic fare collection, collecting distributing passengers from the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) stops and time tables’ coordination of the modes. The international study tour will further give attention to design standards, safety, security, information systems, policies, by-laws and law enforcement.”
The cost of the study tour, capped at R906 675, includes three business class international return air tickets at a cost of R120 000, seven economy class international return air tickets costing R105 000 and ten economy class domestic return tickets. Visas will cost R17 500, accommodation R220 500 and bus hire R92 400 while an amount of R62 990 is provided for contingencies. To allow the delegates to cater for expenses that are not covered, an amount of R307 450 is allocated. This amounts to R2 795 per day (US$215) per delegate.
In view of the fact that some of the councillors are in the last year of their term of office, the question may be raised whether their participation in the tour is really justified. It is also a fact that there are sources within the country that have already implemented projects of this nature successfully, including Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, with information readily accessible on the internet.
“Funds for the tour will be sourced from the 2014/15 budget that have to be spent before 30 June and it seems that a surplus on the budget had to be spent urgently,” a source that wishes to remain anonymous, remarked.
A report on lessons learnt during the study tour should be submitted to the Portfolio Committee for Transport within 60 days of the return of the officials.
Mantlako Sebaka, Head: Marketing, Communications and Stakeholder Relations at Transportation Services, commented as follows: “There is a big drive to promote sustainability in the provision and management of transportation systems. Sustainability requires a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach. It is therefore important that the delegation consists of councillors and officials.
Sebaka said the delegation will be exposed to the entire decision-making process for non-motorised transport and meet important role players who will offer them insight on how to manage such a system.
“The delegation will do a cycling trip through the historical Amersfoort city centre to experience the integration of cycling infrastructure into a historical area. It must be noted that this is part of a five year overall NMT project with various aspects involved and not an isolated ‘end of budget year’ expense. The notion and value to be added by such a NMT study tour was identified during the 2013/14 financial year, but only fully planned during the 2014/15 financial year.”