R85m wasted on building


The Tshwane municipality and the Gauteng Department of Housing and Human Settlements have spent millions of rand of ratepayers’ money on a block of apartments that do not meet building requirements fit for people to live in.

In one of the most glaring examples of how corruption and mismanagement in the city affects people desperate for housing, the municipality and the province paid more than R85 million for 104 units that are less than 50m2 each.

This means one unit, which is smaller than an average flat in Sunnyside, was built at a cost price of R817 000, enough to buy a townhouse in the affluent parts of Pretoria east or a three-bedroomed house in Pretoria North.

But it is not only the cost that is of concern.

The city’s building control officers have refused to issue a certificate of occupation for the housing units because they are of dubious quality and are not fit for human habitation, making a mockery of the city’s strategy to eradicate hostels in Tshwane.

Hundreds of people who were earmarked to occupy these units continue to live in squalor next to the housing units, where services such as electricity, water and ablution facilities are a rare privilege.

In a shocking move, the city’s housing division and the mayoral committee have only recommended that the consultants and contractors who were paid the R85m be blacklisted from doing business with the city - with no civil or criminal charges against them being recommended.

Opposition parties have alleged that the contracts to construct the units were awarded to unsuitable companies with strong links to powerful ANC politicians and municipal officials.

Project manager, Wedge Projects, awholly-owned Aurecon company, has refused to take any blame for the state of the housing units and says city officials are responsible for the mess. The completion and obtaining of the certificate of occupation was dependent on their own actions.

“As project managers of the Saulsville Hostels project, Wedge submitted detailed reports on the status of the project and the handing over of units to beneficiaries to the City of Tshwane during February, April and May last year.

“The reports were resubmitted to the City of Tshwane during July last year without any response,” the company said.

It claimed some invoices by service providers remain unpaid, and that delays in the completion of the units was, among others, caused by the city reducing the budget and using the money for the housing units for unrelated projects.

“We are not aware that the City of Tshwane has applied to have Wedge blacklisted. At no stage did the city query the quality of Wedge’s work as project managers. Wedge was not involved in the actual construction of the Saulsville Hostels and the poor workmanship referred to.”

The company said it had laid a complaint with the National Treasury over the non-payment of invoices from service providers.

Mayoral committee member for human settlements, Joshua Ngonyama, tabled a report before the council in November stating that “all attempts to comply with Building Control regulations have failed… hence occupation can’t be issued”.

He said the city had acted responsibly when it realised the company was not fulfilling its mandate and was producing work that was below par. “When we came into office and realised what was happening we stopped the contract. It is clear that the company failed to do its job, and did not hand over the building because it was in such a poor state it had failed to obtain a certificate of occupation.”

Allegations of corruption have also been levelled against the councillors involved in the selection of families who will occupy the units when they are finally completed.

Residents and opposition parties claim bribes were being paid by those seeking to occupy the units when they are completed, despite the initial arrangement being that Saulsville hostel residents who qualify for subsidies would be prioritised.

Instead, the list of people who are supposed to occupy the units is dominated by people who have never lived in the current hostel.

This has resulted in a stand-off and a potentially violent situation after hostel residents warned that individuals and families who have never lived in the hostels will not be allowed to reside at the new development until all current residents have been allocated units.

The IFP in Tshwane has officially written to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate why companies were paid R85m to construct units that are not suitable for human habitation, and why people who lived in the hostel dwellings were not prioritised on the occupation list for the new units.

“It is a shame that so much money was spent on these units and they are not even habitable. Since the contractors left the site, these units have been vandalised. The municipality had to spend an additional R5m to fix them,”said the IFP’s Alvin Madela.

“Another R500 000 has been spent to construct a palisade fence around the units. It is a shame what is happening here.These units are not even proper structures, the walls are cracking before the people have even moved in,” he said .

DA councillor Simon Motsaneng said it was simply not enough that the contractors would be blacklisted and no criminal or civil charges instituted against them.

“If this council is determined to act against fruitless and wasteful expenditure it should also be instituting civil actions against the contractors to see if any of this wasted money can be recovered. It should also have the tender committee that allocated this original contract investigated to ensure that the correct procedures were followed,” said Motsaneng.

Pretoria News