State spend on home renovations 'wasteful'

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has described government's plan to splurge millions on renovating ministers' houses and other government buildings as wasteful and unethical.

Sowetan's sister publication, Sunday Times, yesterday reported that the government plans to spend close to R750m on upgrades, renovations and maintenance of ministers' houses and state assets such as the Union Buildings.

This was despite the country facing declining tax revenue, high unemployment and very low economic growth.

Special projects manager at Outa Dominique Msibi said public works minister Thulas Nxesi was "just spending unnecessarily".

"We think it is wasteful expenditure to spend so much on renovations. We also think in this fiscal environment renovating ministers' houses and buildings should not be a priority. There are people who are disadvantaged who should be prioritised in a time like this," said Msibi.

"They are renovating these places and quite honestly they sometimes barely live in them because they live in two cities at any given time within a year. In our view it is wasteful. It is unethical if you think of how people on the ground are suffering. We are against it completely."

Revelations of the splurge were contained in Nxesi's written reply to parliament on Friday.

Nxesi's response showed that his department would spend over R700m for the 2019/2020 financial year on ministerial houses, Union Buildings, houses for MPs and their offices within parliamentary precinct.

Nxesi revealed that:

  • A ministerial house in Rondebosch, Cape Town, was due for a kitchen and bathroom upgrade costing R1m in October;
  • Another ministerial house will get a new guardhouse, electric fence and security cameras worth R4.3m;
  •  MPs' offices in Marks Building near parliament will get waterproofing, window replacements and airconditioners to the tune of R10.7m;
  •  The replacement of lifts and repairs to a public address system at the Union Buildings will cost R12.5m;
  • New carpets in the east wing of the offices of minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will cost R5.7m; and
  •  To prevent MPs from the trouble of load-shedding, R2.9m has been set aside for emergency power supply.