Cape Town - Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale has expressed his concern about the rampant corruption in the delivery of houses.
He said to date, about 772 public servants have been charged, of whom 554 have been convicted of the crime.
Tabling his Budget Vote in Parliament on Tuesday, Minister Sexwale said corruption remained a major challenge and a stumbling block in the delivery of shelter to the poor.
He further said government was concerned about houses that were reportedly standing empty, especially in the light of the huge demand for housing in the country.
"To ensure we identify and act against criminals, we have strengthened our partnership with the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and taken stern action against offenders," the minister said.
A further 1 600 acknowledgments of debt cases have been signed in respect of non-qualifying government employees with a total value of R19.8 million, and that millions have already been collected by the SIU from non-qualifying illegal beneficiaries.
The department has signed a further Service Level Agreement with the SIU mandating them to investigate fraud, corruption and maladministration in low-income housing contracts.
"This is the focus for the current financial year, and will enable the department to understand the type of abuse giving rise to blocked projects and allow us to improve our systems and processes while getting rid of corrupt officials and contractors," the minister said.
Minister Sexwale further said significant strides have been made towards identifying those informal settlements that can be upgraded.
"We have mapped all these informal settlements countrywide, and this area will be receiving serious ongoing attention.
"We have taken cognisance of the need for housing in urban pressure points around the country and are in the process of responding to this with alternative tenure options including affordable rental housing stock," he said.
To tackle the housing demand, currently standing at more than 2.1 million units, Minister Sexwale said the rural housing programme remained a key housing intervention and that new initiatives were in the pipeline to accelerate the development of quality rural human settlements.
Funds allocated to national housing pilot projects for this financial year include R400-million for the N2 Gateway, R120-million for the Zanemvula Housing Project and R150-million for disaster relief in KwaZulu-Natal.
Nationally, over 570 housing projects have been approved and a housing grant of R12.4-billion has been allocated for this financial year.
"This is allocated for expenditure on the construction of 226 000 new housing units across all nine provinces," said Minister Sexwale.