07/02/2013. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela during a media briefing on some of her finalised investigations yesterday. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Cape Town - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela shocked MPs on Wednesday with a report on the low-cost housing problems she had encountered, including houses that lacked foundations and homes that had been built from material which crumbled on touch.

So bad were some of the houses that the defects could not be fixed and they would have to be demolished.

Madonsela told Parliament’s oversight committee on human settlements that her office had been flooded with complaints in the delivery of low-cost housing. She had received more than 5 000 complaints this year.

“We did find homes that don’t have foundations, and we did find homes that were built with something more like mud… when you poke through, it falls apart,” she told the committee.

The allocation of RDP houses had also caused problems, and people were confused about what such a house should contain.

The government was losing billions of rands to corrupt construction companies, Madonsela warned.

She said that MPs should be regularly briefed by the Department of Human Settlements and other role players on what was being done to address these problems.

Human Rights Commission head Lawrence Mushwana said his commission’s recommendation to eradicate bucket system toilets had been ignored. The system continued to exist in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape.

The director-general in the Human Settlements Department, Thabane Zulu, welcomed the issues raised by Mushwana and Madonsela, saying the housing rectification programme was set to deal with defective homes built since 2002.

Contractors who were responsible for shoddy workmanship were being prosecuted and money recovered.

He said housing contracts worth R20 billion had been identified for investigation by the Special Investigating Unit and 59 housing contracts worth R4bn had already been investigated and finalised.

The unit was conducting 13 criminal investigations and the potential public funds recoverable amounted to R101 million. Just over 1 000 officials who fraudulently benefited from the government’s housing programme had been prosecuted and convicted between the 2010/11 and 2011/12 financial years and R17.9m recovered.

Political Bureau