R58bn bill to fix dodgy RDP housing - DA

Butch Steyn says contractors responsible still aren't being blacklisted

Sub-standard housing: Department notches up R58 billion bill

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is greatly concerned by an announcement made in the housing settlements portfolio committee yesterday. According to Thabane Zulu, Director-General of the Department of Human Settlements, it will cost approximately R58 billion for the Department to fix poorly built houses. Of greater concern was the further admission that the Department has not yet found a way to blacklist contractors who built these substandard houses, and that many of these unfit contractors may still have contracts with the national government to build more substandard housing. These contractors are directly sabotaging the lives and human dignity of millions of South Africans with utter disregard for the consequences.

This is unacceptable. Not only is the state losing approximately R58 billion, but the national government will continue to waste large sums of money on this for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the people these houses are intended for may well find themselves living in houses that are not up to standard. This cannot be allowed to continue. The DA calls for urgent action to be taken to implement an effective system of monitoring and oversight of building contractors to ensure that contractors who deliver substandard housing are not only held accountable for their poor service delivery but are also banned from engaging in future contracts.

It is the responsibility of housing minister Tokyo Sexwale to outline such a plan to the South African people to ensure that housing delivery for poor South Africans is not compromised any further. In this regard, I shall be writing to the chairperson of Parliament's portfolio committee on human  settlements requesting that  Minister Sexwale appear urgently before the committee. He should explain why this situation has remained unaddressed for so long and outline a plan for effective monitoring and oversight to deal with this issue.

What makes the R58 billion revelation even more astonishing is that only 6 weeks ago, Minister Sexwale announced that he had set aside R1.3 billion to fix sub-standard housing this year. Accepting this figure, it would take the national government 40 years just to fix badly built houses. Furthermore, the annual budget for the department is only R16.3 billion a year so if the department did nothing but fix substandard housing, it would still take three and a half years, with no other service delivery taking place . In the meantime, poor quality houses continue to be built, which means there is no foreseeable end to this expense.

Parliament is still waiting for the full report and result of the audit which will provide details of the rectification programme and explain how the figure of R58 billion was reached. The fact that billions are spent on fixing houses that are built so poorly that they cannot even be lived in is a major problem that needs to be dealt with swiftly and effectively. There has never been an efficient system of monitoring and oversight of contractors, and now the South African public must foot the bill for poor work that was entirely preventable. Thabane Zulu did acknowledge in the portfolio committee meeting that this is a major problem and a way must be found to blacklist contractors. It seems a little late to point this out after a R58 billion bill has been presented to the public. There is no time to waste on empty promises and endless discussions.

The Zuma administration's emphasis on prioritising housing rings hollow when we look at the statistics of South Africa's housing backlog, which stands at an estimated 2,1 million, affecting 12 million people. It is crucial that we see speedy and efficient implementation of an effective oversight committee to monitor performance of contractors and ensure that contractors who have built poor quality houses are not only blacklisted but are also held accountable for what they have done.

It is the poorest of the poor who are suffering the indignity of lack of housing while unscrupulous contractors benefit from building houses that nobody can live in. Most recipients of these houses have been waiting many years for a house to call their own, and they do not deserve to move into houses that will, at best, have to be undergo extensive renovation soon afterwards, and at worst, may endanger their lives.

Statement issued by Butch Steyn MP, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Human Settlements, February 10 2011

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