South Africa: PICC - Taking The Next Step

Last Updated: 7 June 2013
Article by Nikita Lalla, Mbali Lembede, Zama Ngcobo and Kate Swart

Most Read Contributor in South Africa, September 2018

The South African government has stated that it plans to inject about R845 billion into public infrastructure projects over the next three years, with a further R4 trillion over the following 15 years. In light of this policy, the Draft Infrastructure Development Bill was introduced to complement and continue the work done by President Zuma's Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC).

It plans to enhance the coordination of the country's Planned Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs) which have been compiled by the PICC, and to govern their implementation. The bill is aimed at:

  • Fast-tracking strategic infrastructure delivery by extending state powers for the expropriation of land and shortening the approval time for projects by government authorities;
  • Boosting infrastructure development by promoting public private partnerships;
  • Providing for the continued existence of the PICC, which must perform the functions provided for in the bill, including the identification and development of infrastructure priorities and the designation of SIPs; and
  • The development of a Steering Committee comprising all stakeholders in the implementation of each project.

The bill was introduced by the Department of Economic Development (headed by Minister Ebrahim Patel) in February 2012. The PICC currently monitors 44% of all state infrastructure projects, with a focus on 18 of the SIPs already put forward. R24 billion has already been spent to date, and 145 000 jobs have been created.

The PICC

"The Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission will address the pace of infrastructure development in South Africa and develop a 20-year infrastructure pipeline of projects to ensure that South Africa could plan ahead and move away from the â€Üstop-start syndrome' around the building of inf r a st r u c tu r e , " Kgalema Motlanthe said.

The PICC was established by cabinet and comprises a Management Committee, a Secretariat and a Steering Committee for SIPs. The members designated to the PICC are:

  • The president;
  • The deputy-president;
  • Ministers designated by the president;
  • Premiers of the provinces; and
  • The chairperson of the South African Local Government Association, recognised in terms of the Organised Local Government Act 52 of 1997 as the national organisation representing municipalities.

The PICC has been mandated, among others things, to ensure systematic selection, planning and monitoring of large projects, and develop a 20-year infrastructure pipeline. In order to achieve the goals set out above, certain functions have been given to the PICC.

The most important of these are to:

  • Determine and develop infrastructure priorities, more specifically five-year priorities;
  • Designate SIPs;
  • Identify strategic international partners with which to conclude agreements, and in turn scale up investment in infrastructure;
  • Consider proposals for infrastructure development and maintenance;
  • Call for proposals for the implementation of strategic integrated projects;
  • Address capacity constraints, and improve coordination and integration within strategic integrated projects; and
  • Promote the creation of decent employment opportunities, skills development, and support African development and integration. The PICC performs a vital role in the implementation of the bill and what it hopes to achieve. Therefore, the test of the PICC's effectiveness will be how well it can coordinate and integrate its work and the different elements of the Infrastructure Plan, and whether the government's infrastructure development plans are realised.

The committees that form the PICC are fundamental in enabling it to achieve its goals.

Management Committee

The Management Committee is appointed by the president, and consists of members of the PICC, cabinet, the executive council of a province or a municipal council, or such deputy-ministers as are determined in consultation with relevant premiers. This committee is currently chaired by Gugile Nkwinti, Minister for Land Development and Rural Reform.

It exercises an oversight role within the PICC in the management of its affairs, and some of its duties include:

  • Ensuring that the decisions of the PICC are carried out;
  • Monitoring and evaluating infrastructure development in South Africa generally, and the SIPs specifically; and
  • Reviewing and making recommendations to the PICC, to ensure the harmonisation and improvement of policies and laws relating to infrastructure development and investment in infrastructure.

Perhaps its most important role is to ensure the coordination of regulatory approvals. This role is aimed at ensuring that there is high-level cooperation and coordinated political will across all three spheres of government to push through infrastructure development projects. This role will be especially important in ensuring that the tight timeframes imposed on regulatory decision-making are met.

Where these deadlines are not met, the commission can intervene and expedite the process. In this regard, Minister Patel has stated that "...[t]he commission is a single forum that binds all three spheres. So we now have a committee that includes everyone who has anything to do with infrastructure. It is a mechanism that can bind everyone to a decision."

Secretariat

The Secretariat, which is headed by Minister Patel, is responsible for the day-to-day work of the PICC. The members are appointed by the president, and consist of the minister, as chairperson, and other ministers and deputy-ministers as the president may determine.

Included in the Secretariat's function are the appointment and oversight of, and interaction with, the Steering Committees, and the coordination of the implementation of SIPs. This body must also report regularly to the Management Committee and the PICC regarding its management duties.

Steering Committees

Steering Committee members are nominated by the minister under whose portfolio the SIP falls, and include the director-general in the relevant minister's department, and representatives of the departments and organs of state affected by the project.

Members of a Steering Committee must have the relevant knowledge and delegated power to take decisions on behalf of the organ of state which they represent. A channel of communication with the head of the represented organ of state must also be available to the members, thus further speeding up implementation.

Provisions to combat possible corruption are included in the bill, and there is a clear intention to maintain procedural fairness and administrative justice standards, notwithstanding the streamlined approach to project planning, approval and implementation.

Previously published by Legal Times, Friday May 10 | 2013

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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