OPINION | Sanral must recommit to ethical business practices

R61 Road Upgrade
R61 Road Upgrade

The announcement by the SA National Road Agency (Sanral) of a multibillion-rand programme to rebuild roads across the Eastern Cape is news to be welcomed.

Sanral has said that some 8,000 jobs will be created as a result of work on 150 road reconstruction projects.

About R2.8bn will flow to SMMEs engaged on these projects, with the biggest impact on the OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo districts.

However, attention must be focused on procurement and payment processes, and Sanral’s full compliance with legal prescripts for the programme rollout must be extracted.

There should be no doubt about the positive socio-economic impact of good and safe road networks on urban and rural communities alike, especially in our vast province, where people must commute and goods must be conveyed across great distances.

The impact of good roads on poor people may be particularly important.

Tourism is also hugely dependent on decent transportation routes, from the national road crossing our province to provincial and district roads.

We witness daily the negative effect of poorly planned and maintained road infrastructure

We witness daily the negative effect of poorly planned and maintained road infrastructure, as vehicles are damaged, travelling and delivery times extended, and lives lost.

Sanral has the capacity and experience to deliver on its core mandate of road-building.

But there is always the danger of its work being sullied by external political and commercial interests, and by real or perceived corruption.

The World Bank — which spent almost R840bn around the globe on road projects in the 10-year period to 2010 — has pointed out that the road-building sector is plagued by fraud, corruption and collusion, causing direct and opportunity costs.

Sanral suffered huge flak which negatively affected its bankability by international lenders in the Gauteng E-tolls saga, when motorists simply refused to pay.

AA research found that motorists regarded Sanral and the E-tolls system as corrupt.

And while Sanral performs its mandate in terms of government policy, such policy considerations cannot be restricted to road-building activities per se, but must cover the gamut of implications of its work for people, organisations and the environment.

On the proposed Wild Coast N2 road, Sanral is in dispute with the Aveng Strabag Joint Venture contractor which has vacated the site of the R1.7bn Mtentu River bridge after local protests about the community’s role in the project.

In 2019, industry body the SA Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors also alleged that nationwide construction contracts worth R25bn were being held to ransom by such violent protests.

As it takes over the latest provincial reconstruction projects, Sanral must recommit to ethical business practices, ignore opaque and self-serving agendas, and eviscerate corruption.

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