Five annual budgets to fix badly built houses
ENDEMIC corruption and maladministration have resulted in the government requiring the equivalent of five of its annual housing budgets to fix shoddily built reconstruction and development programme (RDP) houses.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has begun a nationwide investigation into RDP houses and is collecting shocking testimony from poor people given state housing.
The government has set aside R50bn to repair houses already built - which could have provided subsidised housing to more than 1-million households.
Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said on Thursday the government was exploring measures to stop the construction of substandard houses by private contractors.
He told a meeting with the construction industry in Pretoria that, among other measures, the government was considering starting its own company to build the houses. "What we have been getting is less than credible, shoddy workmanship. When we have the huge projects we give them to credible companies who bring in their expertise," he said.
"But when we build houses for our people, instead of bringing in those major, credible companies, we give it to people who believe it's their right to get the contracts. Why not let the major companies build some of the houses? I'll force them to bring empowerment partners."
Mr Sexwale said the government could not be blamed. "I don't remember government building houses, but the service providers," he said.
Kerwin Lebone, a researcher at the South African Institute of Race Relations, said the state's housing subsidy last year was R55,000 for a single-stand RDP house.
"R50bn will provide subsidised housing to just over 1-million households and thus halve the housing backlog of 2.3-million. It is a crying shame that this amount has to be used to fix shoddy workmanship."
Mr Lebone said research had shown that 40,000 government officials were investigated for subsidy fraud by the auditor-general, 1,910 were arrested, 1,296 were convicted, and R44m was recovered.
"The government knows the people who are best qualified to deliver quality. They know who delivered quality stadiums under tight deadlines for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The appointment of construction companies with a proven track record is the way to go," he said.
Stevens Mokgalapa, Democratic Alliance spokesman on human settlements, said the R50bn allocated to fix RDP houses was "fruitless and wasteful" expenditure.
"The government should not be spending all this on rectification - almost R930m is going to be spent this financial year alone, which means the government is building backwards, not forward," he said.
North West residents yesterday appealed to Ms Madonsela to resolve their problems with RDP houses.
They packed the Klerksdorp town hall and told how they had been forced to sign up and occupy houses even when they complained about the poor standards of construction.
"A contractor told me that someone else would sign my happy letter if I kept refusing to sign. My house is now falling apart," said Margaret Nteu of Kanana township.
Foundations were constructed and abandoned three years ago in Joubertina township, Buti Tshabalala told the hearing.
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