Human Settlements Minister probing R4.2-billion in low-cost housing rot
Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale on Wednesday detailed a number of steps that his department had taken to root out corruption in the low-cost housing sector – including the arrest and dismissal of several public servants and investigation of 57 housing projects valued at over R4.2 billion.
Delivering his Budget Vote, Sexwale said 40 investigations had so far been completed, while a further 17 were still ongoing.
Provinces were participating in the investigations, he said, noting that Limpopo had taken the lead among provinces in probing housing contracts.
Sexwale said added to this, 24 contractors had been blacklisted for shoddy workmanship, non-delivery and incompetence.
These cases and others had been referred to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
Further to this, more than 290 public servants had been arrested for suspected housing subsidy fraud and 250 had been found guilty and a further 220 were facing internal disciplinary action.
Nearly R30 million lost through corrupt activities has been recovered, he said.
Added to this, action had been taken against three public servants, namely:
• Thami Mpotulo, the former chief director of the National Sanitation Programme, who had been found guilty of dereliction of duty and improper conduct and had been dismissed.
• Sipho Mashinini, the suspended chief executive of the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC), who had been found guilty of financial misconduct and the presiding chairperson of the enquiry, retired Judge President Myburg of the Labour Court, had recommended a summary dismal.
• Vanessa Somiah, a former SAPS detective and top SIU investigator - who was irregularly employed at the NHBRC by Mashinini - has had her employment terminated by the Board with immediate effect.
Said Sexwale: “I say this with a heavy heart. My job as a minister is not to be a policeman chasing people around, but you members ask me questions about these things and you always ask me ‘show me… investigations… what have you done’.”
In the last financial year, the department had spent 98% of its budget and built 180 000 housing opportunities, and created 76 000 job opportunities – including 50 000 direct jobs – through a number of key housing projects across the country.
These include: Lakehaven in Ethekwini, KwaZulu-Natal; a Brandford Women’s Build project in the Free State; Mazista, Swaartruggens in the North West; Seshego in Polokwane; Klarinet, Emalahleni in Mpumalanga; China Square Project in Kimberly; the redevelopment of Jabulani Hostel in Soweto; the densification of Joe Slovo in Cape Town and the Southernwood social housing project in Buffalo City, Eastern Cape.
Sexwale singled out the use of recycled materials that had been used to build houses in Blue Downs – using the rubble from the demolished Athlone cooling towers which were imploded in 2010.
He congratulated Anglo Platinum for helping to build 20 000 homes, at the cost of R1.4 billion, for their employees in the North West and Limpopo, under the department’s Each One, Settle One campaign.
Mining giants Gold One and BHP Billiton would soon be making similar announcements too, he said.
However, he said though there had been considerable response from the private sector, many JSE-listed companies had not joined the campaign.
Over 22% of enquiries and pledges to the campaign are from those who want to build homes for their domestic workers and 15% from those who wish to offer technical expertise to the department.
He said the department’s turnaround strategy had now been completed.
In line with the Cabinet decision to have all housing-related legislation located within the Department of Human Settlements, Sexwale said the Estate Agency Affairs Act had been transferred to his department from trade and industry.
This would help his department to fast track the deracialisation of residential areas, he said.
He said sanitation had been elevated to a national priority under the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission