The new National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR) board – appointed on August 1 by the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula – includes two high-level representatives from the Department of Tourism. But who are the board members and when will they be announced?
This was raised by COO of SATSA, Hannelie du Toit, at this week’s National Tourism Stakeholder Forum meeting where Director in the Department of Transport, Moeketsi Sikhudo, briefed attendees on progress made around the issuing of tour operator licences.
Du Toit commented that industry had submitted 13 recommendations of people from the tourism industry – who understood the unique challenges of tour operators versus minibus taxis – to serve on the board. But, to date, the new NPTR board has yet to be named.
She welcomed the addition of the two Department of Tourism representatives to the board but said further clarity was needed.
The backlogs regarding the issuing of tour operator licences by the NPTR has been a major obstacle to tourism growth, with many tour operators facing closure of their businesses as a result of not receiving their licences on time. It was hoped that a new NPTR board would make a difference.
Sikhudo said the Minister would announce the new board soon.
Why is accreditation required?
Du Toit also highlighted the issue – a major bugbear for industry – around all applications for commercial transport being treated the same. “There is no difference between accredited and non-accredited operators at the moment. Why is accreditation required then?”
She added: “The NPTR seems to be overstepping its authority by requesting documents to make their own decisions on whether a business is viable or not. The function of the NPTR should be to ensure that the transport that is provided is safe for passengers. What speciality and knowledge do they have of the tourism industry to be able to judge business viability? Documents such as business plans, recent invoices, letter of motivation (which often comes from competitors). Will this be addressed?”
Sikhudo noted Du Toit’s concerns and said he would raise these with the Minister, adding that the concerns and questions could also be raised by industry via the two Department of Tourism representatives on the NPTR board.
He acknowledged the massive backlog in issuing operator licences, ascribing this to, amongst others, the move toward a paperless system (National Land Transport Information System), the expiry in November 2019 of the previous board and the regulator not meeting as often as possible.
“Furthermore, helpdesk officials spend endless hours either telephonically or via email requesting and advising applicants to send the correct documents as per the requirements. This is indicative of a lack of awareness of the NPTR requirements for applications,” said Sikhudo.
He said these challenges would be addressed via awareness campaigns and regular industry workshops and the continuous training of staff.
“The NPTR will also be empowered to take over and perform all the functions stipulated in the NLTA (National Land Transport Authority),” said Sikhudo.
Facts and figures
- NPTR received and processed 3 872 applications from its inception date of July 29, 2016, to date (September 23, 2020).
- 394 tourist transport operators have been accredited in that same period.
- For the previous financial year of 2019/2020, 1 242 operating licences were issued.
According to the NLTA, the backlog comprises or refers to applications that have been received and passed the 60-day (period at which they should have been finalised).
- The total number of applications in the backlog is 1 912. These include applications that were deferred and/or postponed in the last NPTR Committee meetings held in November 2019.
- In addition to the 540 applications in backlog that were reported in February 2020, there are 210 applications that have been processed and gazetted. They are currently awaiting adjudication by the NPTR Committee.