18 August 2010
A national audit task team appointed by South Africa’s Department of Human Settlements has recovered R44-million and arrested 1 910 government officials who were illegally benefiting from housing subsidies.
The recovered money has been ploughed back into the department for use in human settlement grants.
Speaking at a media briefing detailing the progress of the task team in Pretoria on Monday, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said it had made excellent headway in cracking down on corrupt officials who had abused housing subsidies.
The task team, headed by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), was appointed by Sexwale last year.
“Now the focus is on housing syndicates – which are of increasing concern – and on dodgy contractors,” the minister said, adding that 20 problematic housing projects worth R2-billion had been identified.
The SIU travelled to all nine provinces, identifying the top 10 dodgy contracts in each province, which was then narrowed down to a list of 20. A total of 10 246 housing projects were assessed by the investigators.
“Their work is already bearing fruit. Already, a conveyancing attorney in KwaZulu-Natal has been charged with 142 counts of fraud and theft. Two criminal cases [have been opened] in respect of a contractor and engineer who defrauded the department of more than R10-million,” the minister said.
Investigations are also under way into syndicates that are selling and renting state-owned houses, primarily in Gauteng, North West and KwaZulu-Natal.
The SIU has also been asked to investigate the National Home Builders’ Registration Council, which provides a quality control function to housing contractors.
“A number of complaints have come in recent months from members of the public, from Parliament and from political parties. These complaints have been forwarded to the SIU for investigation, and a report is expected,” Sexwale said.
The head of the SIU, Willie Hofmeyr, said the unit would now focus largely on contractors who had failed to deliver.
“We hope, together with the department, to send a strong message – that people will be prosecuted where there has been wrong-doing. We want to send this message out with the hope of cleaning up the system,” Hofmeyr said.