Small contractors owed millions for repairs

SMALL emerging contractors have been disempowered from doing business with government.

About 30 small contractors who completed work to fix poorly built RDP houses are owed millions of rands, but neither Gauteng's housing department nor Servcon Housing Solutions - its housing finance arm - want to take responsibility for the debts.

Servcon chief executive Linolikhaya Mpambani admitted at a meeting with contractors last week, in Sowetan's presence, that "contractors were owed millions".

He would not elaborate on the amounts owed but said: "They have completed the work and we are satisfied with the quality."

The rectification work started in mid-2008. The debts date back to September after work was completed.

" As soon as the Gauteng department of human settlements processes payments we will pay the contractors," Mpambani said.

"I offer my apologies because the government has disempowered small contractors instead of empowering them."

Unsatisfied, Vusi Sibiya of African Moon, said: "We have incurred a lot of interest on our debts. We rely on big companies to help us with money and material. I don't think they will be willing to help us in future."

Fred Mokoko of the Gauteng department of local government and housing said: "Our records indicate that we do not owe Servcon for rectification work but we owe them R53million for houses they built at Reitvallei, in Roodepoort.

"We also know that an audit is being conducted by the department to evaluate all the work they have undertaken.

"Included in this are about 63200 houses that had to be rectified at a cost of R3000 a unit."

Joey Maswanganyi of Maleha Construction said he had to sell personal possessions to settle some debts, particularly the wages of workers who had become impatient.

Servcon is to cease operations next month and will be replaced by the Housing Development Agency.