Minister bent on rooting out housing corruption

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pretoria - Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale is bent on rooting out corruption within his department and sector.

The minister said on Monday his department had instituted a National Housing Audit headed by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to find the culprits who had caused "chronic" and "massive" problems in housing.

Members of the public have been up in arms about the quality of government houses as well as corrupt contractors and officials who build shoddy houses.

Minister Sexwale said the audit had been instituted to examine, review and analyze the "chronic problems" in the delivery of houses.

He said the principal aim of the audit was to identify and uncover blockages and impediments to delivery, with a view to improve systems, controls and measures.

"The net effect of this will be to accelerate the creation of sustainable human settlements, and to bring about a quantifiable improvement in the quality of life of the poor.

"We need to focus on issues which we know are specific impediments - fraud, delays, corruption, absentee contractors, ghost houses, shoddy workmanship, and corruption around waiting lists," the minister said.

The audit is anticipated to root out criminal action, force contractors to finish their work, blacklist offenders and name and shame corrupt people both inside and outside of government.

He said thousands of houses would have to be demolished across the county because of their poor quality.

"In many provinces such as Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, we have to rebuild these houses and close to R1 billion to be used to rectify houses nationally.

"We have not budgeted for this but there are people who are taking advantage of the public funds and build these defect houses," Sexwale said, adding that more than 27 000 of the initial calls to the Presidential Hotline were housing complaints.

Meanwhile, the department has allocated more than R12 billion - more than 90 percent of its total budget - to provincial departments for expenditure on housing delivery in this financial year.

He added that the department, particularly his office, will monitor how the public funds in housing were spent, pledging that there "will be no place to hide for those involved in dodgy deals" and warned that "heads were going to roll".

The department will soon develop an inter-IT-system that will link all computers to the minister's, which will allow him to monitor the expenditure of provincial housing budgets.

Despite the problems experienced, the department had made significant strides in building more than 2.8 million houses since 1994 and is currently on target in terms of delivery of new housing stock in various provinces.