Captured South African journalist Shiraaz Mohamed is alive in Syria and could be home within a month.
Minister Thulas Nxesi yesterday painted a bleak picture of his department, including the fact that as the government's "landlord" it does not have a full register of properties owned by the state.
Nxesi said his top priority was to have proper audit of all the leases his department has with various parties by the end of May.
He said Treasury would assist the department in identifying irregular leases, collecting outstanding money, establishing a reliable lease register and to strengthen the systems of the department relating to lease and property management and to train and capacitate staff accordingly.
Nxesi said the ministry has liaised with the Special Investigating Unit, the public protector and auditor-general, and as a result of investigations, five officials have been suspended and charged with misconduct.
"More officials are implicated and investigations will lead to criminal prosecutions," he said.
Speaking at the department's regional office in Johannesburg, Nxesi said he found that there was lack of capacity and accountability when he joined the ministry.
He said he did not expect a clean audit from the auditor-general in the 2012-2013 financial year, but would work vigorously to mop-up the mess in the department's books. Public Works has had disclaimer opinions from the AG for the last few years.
Nxesi replaced his predecessor, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, after the public protector found that she had acted irregularly in the granting of the controversial multi-billion rand police headquarters lease contract to property mogul Roux Shabangu.
Nxesi also said that he would ensure that all the acting positions in the department were filled by permanent and qualified individuals. To ensure accountability, he would sign performance agreements with all the senior managers.
He also said he wanted to minimise the use of consultants. "No outsourcing unless the skill is not available. We want to bring all services back inside the department.
Nxesi also committed himself to work with unions.