Sexwale to tackle dodgy builders

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale is "sharpening his pencil" to root out corrupt contractors and officials who build shoddy houses for the poor.

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale is "sharpening his pencil" to root out corrupt contractors and officials who build shoddy houses for the poor.

A national housing audit headed by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has been instituted to find the culprits who had caused "chronic" and "massive" problems in housing, he told journalists in Pretoria yesterday.

"The audit deals with issues where the law had been broken," he said.

Sexwale said recent visits to all provinces, where he heard the concerns of those receiving low-cost houses, and of those on waiting lists, had highlighted the need for an audit.

He said in the Northern and Eastern Cape alone 3000 houses would have to be destroyed as a result of "shoddy" and corrupt workmanship".

"In response to the situation we face, we have decided that we need to take a rigorous look at housing delivery, from top to bottom.

"We need to focus on issues we know are specific impediments: fraud, delays, corruption, absentee contractors, ghost houses, shoddy workmanship and corruption around waiting lists."

Sexwale said those found guilty would face civil or criminal action. For those found within the government ranks, suspension with pay was not an option, he said.

Unscrupulous subcontractors and service providers would be blacklisted.

"We have to force these people to own up."

Sexwale said R20million had already been recovered by the SIU after 800 government officials "nationally and provincially" had been found to be unlawful beneficiaries of housing subsidies. At least 120 of these were municipal employees.

He said more than R12billion of the funds allocated to his department in the medium term budget would be spent on housing delivery.

This was not enough considering the department was operating in a "shrunken economy" and would need to tighten its belt, he said.

Sexwale said it was "unfortunate" that human settlements had not been highlighted as one of government's key priorities, alongside national security, health, job creation, education and rural development.

Referring to the presidential hotline, Sexwale said: "The first 27000 calls to the hotline, the majority of those calls impact on human settlements. If housing has come out as the number one problem we need a paradigm shift to resonate with the budget." - Sapa

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