South African journalists were finally allowed into the multi-million Rand Nkandla homestead on Sund.
"If we were to do effective rectification, we would require R58 billion - that is not for building, just for rectification," Human Settlements director-general Thabane Zulu told Parliament's human settlements portfolio committee yesterday.
Zulu told Sowetan after the meeting that the figure was an estimate that still required verification.
But after Housing Minister Tokyo Sexwale said just six weeks ago that he had set aside R1,3 billion to fix sub-standard houses this year, the new estimate of R58 billion came as a shock to MPs, who gasped loudly.
The department's annual budget is only R16,3 billion. If the government spends R1,3 billion a year on the rectification programme, it will take more than 40 years just to fix sub-standard houses.
It also emerged that the department still had not found a way to prevent companies who built the poorly constructed houses from getting more contracts with the government.
"Some have become rectifiers of rectification. You build a project yourself, knowing that you are going to come back and rectify it. There has to be a process where people who have not built quality must be blacklisted," Zulu said.
He also revealed that when companies do work for the department, government officials are sent out to verify their invoices and check that the work has been done. This new practice came about as a result of special investigations unit investigations into corruption in the department.
The committee also commended Zulu and Sexwale for their recent decision to withdraw R463 million in government funds from Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, who had underspent their housing budgets.
Zulu said if they had not withdrawn the R463 million the provinces would have felt forced to spend it quickly.
"They would end up inflating the costs of projects," Zulu said.
Meanwhile, the department was rapped over the knuckles by MPs for failing to give out vouchers as part of their rural housing subsidy voucher scheme.
The scheme was launched in 2009 and offers rural people vouchers to build their own houses.
But nobody has yet benefited from the scheme because the first pilot project will only be launched in Eastern Cape at the end of this year.