Johannesburg: The government is concerned that inappropriate private sector involvement in the state's R3,2-trillion large-scale infrastructure programmes could result in easy-to-finance initiatives getting preference over those that may have greater social benefits.
Last month Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele invited the private sector to finance and build roads and dams, clearing the way for limited business involvement in the state's infrastructure drive.
"People are very anxious to get in on the act, and from a public interest point of view we need to be more prepared and consolidate a little bit more before we show them something," Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Committee secretariat member Jeremy Cronin said last week. He was speaking on the sidelines of an infrastructure conference organised by the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
"We can't be private-sector led, otherwise there will be cherry-picking and pet projects, which is also a danger for the state on some of the projects too," said Mr Cronin, who is also deputy transport minister.
Snowy Khoza, chairwoman of the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) and CEO of Bigen Africa Services, said the government's limited ability to implement, finance and procure large, complex projects should lead it to rely on and partner with the private sector.
The TCTA is a state-owned agency formed in 1986 to finance and implement bulk raw water infrastructure. It runs a bond programme and is also involved in project management, engineering design and tariff setting.
The private sector had a role to play, not just in the supply of materials and construction of projects, she said in comments directed at Mr Cronin, appealing to him to take this request to the c o-ordinating c ommittee.
Mr Cronin told delegates at the conference that the perception that the private sector was not drawn in and would not be involved in the government's infrastructure plans was flawed, as all of the projects would need to be built by private sector construction companies.
The Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Committee was established last year by President Jacob Zuma to accelerate the implementation of government projects, some of which are new. The projects have been identified as strategic for their enabling character in unlocking economic development.
The committee brings together ministers, premiers, and mayors of metros to plan and monitor the implementation of projects, Mr Cronin said. Much of the work that is being done now on the 43 identified projects is determining the sequence in which the projects should be implemented.
Ms Khoza said the skills in the private sector went beyond construction. "We think it is important for the private sector to facilitate with the identification in prioritising the projects (in the portfolio)."