R1.3bil to be spent on rectifying poorly-built houses

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pretoria - Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale says government will be spending R1.3 billion to rectify poorly-built RDP houses.

The announcement came amid the minister's visit to Alphendale in East London on Monday, where a total of 339 RDP houses needed to be rebuilt because of the poor quality of construction.

One of the Alphendale houses, occupied by Nomfuduko Ntwanana, was demolished. It is to be rebuilt within a month as part of the provincial government's rectification programme.

"The money we should have used for another house has to be spent to rebuild this one. It is a shame. It is a shame that all that money we used to build these houses has gone down the drain just like the rain that is falling today," said Sexwale during his visit.

He described the situation as a national shame.

"This is money down the drain. It is money that should have been spent on new houses."

Minister Sexwale pointed out that government was committed to directly addressing the needs of the poor, and has done extremely well by providing housing for more than 2.8 million people, or 13 million families in total.

"But we did not spend time in jail so that people could steal from the poor. The people who built these houses are stealing your money," he said.

He said the contractors responsible for the shoddy work had been entrusted with government jobs and government contracts and they were supposed to have served the people. Instead, they are thieves, said Sexwale.

The minister has established a National Audit Task Team. The team is led by Special Investigations Unit (SIU) head Willie Hofmeyr, and a senior representative from the Auditor General's office, Paul Serote.

"We are working with the SIU because they have the power to investigate but they also have the power to institute criminal and civil action," Sexwale explained.

"But they don't work alone, they are also working with the office of the Auditor General, which is in charge of looking at all our books, to check how we spend money," he said.

The team has the backing of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) and the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements.

The team is supported by representatives from the national Department of Human Settlements' finance, legal and internal audit teams, and representatives from each of the nine provincial human settlements departments.

"Our officials will support, cooperate and collaborate with the audit task team," he said.

The national audit task team has already begun investigating 20 priority projects, one of which is Alphendale.

"We want to know who built these houses. We need to ask serious questions, and bring people to book. We are going to fix the problem, but we are also going to fix the people who caused the problem," Sexwale said.

"We must combat corruption. We must fight it."

Sexwale called on communities across South Africa to help identify the culprits.

"We won't pay those companies that we find to be culpable. We also want to withdraw the trading licences of these companies. We want to blacklist them, close their companies down and send them to jail.

"Whatever needs to be done, will be done, within the ambit of the law, where we are given knowledge and information, you can trust us we will act."