Cape Town: Government will have to seek the consent of owners of private infrastructure projects before these can be incorporated in the State’s Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs), the Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel said today.
The provision is one of a number of amendments to the Infrastucture Bill that Patel detailed to the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on economic development, following the end of the public comments period to the bill earlier this month.
Detailing another amendment, Patel said any expropriation of land for infrastructure will only be able to be carried out on the agreement of that organ of State – be it a province, public agency or municipality.
The bill, which was tabled in Parliament in November last year, aims to address the continuing challenges of the speed and cost of delivering infrastructure, and will also establish in law the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission (PICC), which presently oversees the roll out of the 18 SIPs.
About 30 written submissions were received as of January 13, following the 30-day comment period on the bill. Patel said by and large, most people agreed that it was necessary to improve infrastructure development.
Some of the changes, which address those submissions made, include changes to cater for constitutional concerns, changes to improve delivery by the three spheres of the State, technical amendments that improve the bill, language improvements to make provisions clearer to the ordinary reader and changes that reduce ambiguities.
Patel cautioned that the department had not adopted some proposals on concerns that they would dilute the core aim of the bill, while others were rejected as they would add rigidities and add further procedures, which would defeat the aim of the bill to speed up delivery.
Others, he said, were rejected as they were seen as unworkable – such as the establishment of a single point of submission for SIPs to process paperwork and regulations related to infrastructure projects.
There was concern that the alignment across the State was inherently unconstitutional, but Patel pointed out that the PICC made provision for consultation with mayors and other representatives.
He said careful consideration had been given to ensure the bill passes constitutional muster and that his department had proposed further amendments to the bill to strengthen its constitutionality.
Environmental considerations are given due weight, and further amendments have been made to address public consultation.
These include the addition of a 30-day public consultation on application of the project plan, as well as on a 44-day period for the development and mitigation of the plan – which would include amendments made on the original project plan submitted for public consultation.
A clause contained in the latest draft also allows for the extension of these consultation periods in exceptional cases. The bill outlines the project pipeline for infrastructure projects, from project conception to completion, including the receipt of, for example, water licences and approval of environmental impact assessments.
Patel said the challenge was how to speed up the rollout of infrastructure without compromising the quality of the infrastructure itself.
“Our challenge is how to cut out unnecessary time, make it simpler, more expeditious and at the same time, ensure that we don’t cut corners that will result in a sub-optimal project or outcome,” he said.