More public servants to own homes

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pretoria – Government wants to see more public servants owning homes and not just renting perpetually, says Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

The minister on Wednesday said she had approved a Project Management Office to kick start the establishment and operation of the Government Employees Housing Scheme in her office.

The Housing Scheme aims to assist employees in the Public Service to secure appropriate and affordable finance towards the purchase or upgrade of their own property.

The minister was speaking during the South African Nurses’ Conference held at Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban.

Themed ‘It is our right to care’, the three-day conference is hosted by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa).

Addressing the delegates, Sisulu said negotiations with the banks were advancing to ensure that her department delivers this important service to employees.

Sisulu said she wanted to see public servants putting to better and more sustainable use the R900 monthly housing allowance.

The minister said before the end of the 2013/14 financial year, they aim to launch the scheme and deliver benefits to about 30 000 employees. 

“This scheme is similar to those found in the private sector, which include a combination of pension-backed loans, employer subsidies and variable support to employees to address challenges of housing access and to promote homeownership,” Sisulu said.

Statistics indicate that out of a total of 975 538 government employees who receive the housing allowance, only 372 234 (or 28%) actually own a house.

“The current annual cost of the housing allowance to the fiscus is estimated at R11 billion. The benefit is granted to employees as part of their conditions of service and augments the salary package. In terms of the wage agreement, the housing allowance is currently capped at R900 per month, irrespective of employee rank,” she said.

Sisulu highlighted four challenges that have been identified by the department. These include the conditions of the country’s hospitals and clinics, nursing absenteeism, shortcomings in the management of sick leave and incapacity in the Public Service, as well as the provision of housing.

“As part of the employer’s responsibilities in terms of the Service Charter, we have committed to ensuring that we improve these conditions. The Public Service, as any other employer in the country, experiences absenteeism from the workplace as a major problem.

“Inadequate procedures and controls were in place to ensure consistent and objective decisions to prevent abuse of the system,” she said.

She also challenged Denosa to find a solution to the abuse of the system, so that nurses are at work on time. She asked the organisation to propose ways in which they can close these gaps in the system, which lead to the profession suffering.

She also commended the important role that nurses have played in the reduction of mother to child diseases and HIV infections.

“This has been recognized internationally and is the greatest achievement the profession can give. We are proud of the hard work done in primary health care.” – 

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