OUTA’s submission on Transport Bill aims to stop serious governance issues
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) made an introductory submission on the Economic Regulation of Transport Bill to the Portfolio Committee on Transport in Parliament. The Bill’s main purpose is to eliminate monopoly and domination of segments of the transport industry, e.g. state-owned entities (SOEs) like Transnet, Prasa and Sanral, as well as segments from the taxi industry. Proposed changes are also meant to prevent poor governance and financial mismanagement, thus promoting economic growth for the country.
OUTA’s comments focus on access to information, potential abuse of provisions, known governance challenges, the integrity of public-private partnerships, and practicalities around implementation of the Bill.
According to Matt Johnston, OUTA's Parliamentary Engagement Manager, the organisation’s comment is aimed at ensuring that issues like financial mismanagement, market domination, withholding of information, and poor governance will be addressed by the Bill. “These are systemic issues in entities like Transnet, PRASA, SANRAL and others, and we want to ensure that the new Bill will successfully prevent it. We also want to ensure that private investment and healthy competition is the order of the day in the transport industry. While we welcome the proposed change in the regulatory environment, the proof will be in the proverbial pudding,” Johnston says.
Johnston explains that there are two main themes in OUTA’s submission: access to information and enforceability. “If information were more freely accessible, OUTA would not - for instance - have to go to court to get the information we want on the toll road concessionaires. On accountability, OUTA’s legal team did an analysis and are satisfied with the provisions that deal with accountability and delegations of authority.”
In order to promote effective, efficient, and productive private and public transport sectors, the Bill proposes the creation of two parallel and independent, but integrated regulatory entities to administrate the industry. “We critically analysed the institutional rules and operations of the administrative agencies. Whilst legislative innovation is welcomed, government will be held accountable when implementing it.”
OUTA also questions the new law’s applicability. “We ask for unambiguous prerequisites to determine which entities and services the Bill will apply to. This is because it will empower a new, single Regulator to implement price controls and other measures for organisations and companies (whether private or state-owned) that dominate their niche market, like taxi associations, SANRAL and Transnet. That is a powerful tool and therefore an easy target for the kind of corruption and exploitation we’ve seen with state capture. We are, however, encouraged by clauses that provide for public participation and allow for appeals if the Bill seems to be applied unfairly or counterproductively.”
OUTA’s submission is introductory and will be enhanced in a more robust submission to the Select Committee on Transport, Public Service and Administration, Public Works and Infrastructure in the National Council of Provinces once the comment of affected entities like Transnet, SANRAL, the Competition Commission, and others are made public in October.