The SA Property Owners Association (Sapoa) is planning to sign a memorandum of understanding with the public protector’s office as part of the property industry’s commitment to good governance, curbing corruption and deepening democracy.
That was the word from the association’s chief executive, Neil Gopal, after the keynote address by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela at the 44th Sapoa Convention and Exhibition held at Durban’s International Convention Centre last week.
“It is important for the private sector to have partnership arrangements with (the) government and other stakeholders. For Sapoa this will help ensure a clean industry… It will be the death of democracy if the private sector keeps quiet about issues such as corruption and good governance,” he said.
Gopal hoped the memorandum would be finalised this year.
Speaking to more than 1 100 of SA’s top property executives at the convention, Madonsela called on the industry to “rein in the bad apples” that were responsible for maladministration and corruption in property dealings with government departments and state institutions.
She said the effects of maladministration harmed the state and the commercial property sector, and the industry needed to work with her office to curb the scourge.
Madonsela said the drafters of the constitution had “deliberately given power” to Chapter 9 institutions such as the auditor- general’s office and that of the public protector, to ensure “checks and balances” and public accountability.
“It seems that if you want to make a quick buck all you have to do is rent a property to (the) government. (The) government is really being ripped off with inflated prices for products and services,” she said.
Madonsela said “high-profile leasing deals” that her office had looked into were the “tip of the iceberg”.
“Systematic maladministration is an everyday reality that we have to deal with… We get complaints on corruption and irregular deals that involve all levels of government. You must remember that leasing is done by national and provincial government departments as well as municipalities,” she said.
“We must remember that the effects of maladministration will have an impact on us for years to come.
“Resources that can be used for new projects are being diverted to correct and repair, for example, poor or shoddy RDP (low-cost) housing projects.
“I’m particularly encouraged by the content of your dialogue at this Sapoa convention. The theme ‘Tomorrow, Today’ suggests you are concerned about the sustainability of the sector and the impact of today's action on the sector’s future.”
The public protector identified problem areas in the government relating to the state’s property affairs, which included leasing, construction, land acquisition and disposal and privatisation of capital projects.
She said one of the key problems was “looting of state land”, which really started on the eve of democracy, aided by government failure to conduct an audit of state property.
This resulted in corruption related to land purchased at an inflated value from white owners for land reform purposes.
Madonsela cited specific forms of maladministration and corruption involving the property sector, including irregular and non-competitive procurement, overpricing and poor quality assurance for shoddy services or goods.