The Bank of Lisbon building sustained serious structural damage due to a fire that broke out. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The Gauteng provincial government is spending almost R200000 a month on water and electricity for the controversial Bank of Lisbon building that is unoccupied.

The building was declared an environmental disaster after fires destroyed it in September last year.

The shocking revelations are in a written reply by newly-appointed MEC for infrastructure development and property management, Tasneem Motara, to questions from the DA’s Crezane Bosch.

Bosch, a new DA member in the legislature, asked Motara to indicate the number of vacant buildings owned by the provincial government.

She also wanted to know the monthly expenditure for those buildings.

Motara listed the Bank of Lisbon as one of the government's vacant buildings and said it paid R42015.62 for water and R141176.00 for electricity.

Motara said the government was paying R150866.33 for rates and up to R73201.95 for electricity for its Standard Bank Building, 78 Fox Street, Johannesburg.

The government also confirmed paying rates of R271 971.10 for Montrose House, on the corner of President and

Pritchard streets in the city. It also pays about R175 055.83 in rates for the abandoned Sage Life building and pays the bill for several other vacant buildings near the legislature.

But it appears that Motara is not aware that the Bank of Lisbon building is due to be demolished in October. She told the DA that the Bank of Lisbon was one of the vacant buildings earmarked to be used for office space by the government. 

This is despite the same government saying in March that the building would be demolished. At the time, Gauteng head of communication Thabo Masebe said: “After the assessment report, various options of remedying the structure were looked at, but it was concluded that it would be in the best interests of the environment where the building was situated, for it to be demolished.”

Motara said the Gauteng legislature owned 12 vacant commercial buildings and 35 vacant residential properties.

“Nine of the 12 commercial properties have been vacant since the date of purchase, while – the remaining three – 78 Fox Street building became vacant in 2011; Sage Life Building in 2017 and Bank of Lisbon in 2018.”

She highlighted that the commercial buildings would be “repurposed as part of the Kopanong Precinct Project (all government buildings owned by the legislature) and would be used to provide office accommodation for provincial government departments.

Motara also confirmed that the government was spending R233 878.50 monthly towards the maintenance of eight houses in Boksburg which had been vacant since August 2011.

The government also pays R77 419.14 for two houses in Jean Avenue, Centurion and R142 499.90 to maintain three houses in Ferndale, Randburg. Other residential properties are in other suburbs in Gauteng. Bosch said some of these buildings should be used for social housing schemes.

She said her party was shocked to learn that the government spent just more than R3 million on vacant buildings.

Political Bureau