Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said R170m had been allocated for facilities management for ministerial houses and parliamentary villages in Cape Town. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency/ANA
Cape Town - The Public Works Department has come under fire for allocating R733 million this financial year to spruce up ministerial houses and other government facilities.

On Sunday, political parties said millions of rand should have been diverted towards service delivery to benefit communities.

In a written response to a parliamentary question, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said R170m had been allocated for facilities management for ministerial houses and parliamentary villages in Cape Town. He said R5.5m had been set aside for ministerial houses in Pretoria.

Nxesi also said R273m had been allocated for the parliamentary precinct and R282m for “all other prestige portfolio assets”.

The allocation comes barely two months after Nxesi said the total amount spent on maintenance on each ministerial house in Pretoria and Cape Town for the 2017/18 financial year was R14.5m.

In his latest written response, the minister said R1m had been allocated for the upgrade of a kitchen and bathroom at one ministerial house as well as R2m to “replace kitchen equipment and redesign” of a kitchen in Parliament.

A total of R5m would be spent on carpets at the Union Buildings and R2.9m on an emergency power supply for Parliament.

At the Union Buildings, R2.6m had been allocated for replacement of lifts and R9.9m for installation and repairs of the fire and public address system. At Bryntirion Estate, R29m would be spent on construction of “gate 1 and 2 as well as the dog unit”, with a further R29m on construction of “a new command centre”. Refurbishment of existing roads at the estate would cost R65m.

Nxesi also revealed that R3m would be spent on an upgrade of security at entrances to the parliamentary precinct, installation of additional perimeter fencing and a vehicle search park, as well as urgent enhanced security measures at various buildings.

Nxesi said R3.7m had been allocated for a maintenance contract for security or access control at the parliamentary precinct, and R675 140 for three parliamentary villages.

On Sunday, parties lashed out at the department for the allocations, saying the money should have been prioritised for service delivery that benefited communities.

The UDM’s Mncedisi Filtane, who sits on the public works portfolio committee, said there was no question about maintaining buildings but there was no need for such expenditure.

“It is necessary to maintain buildings. There is no question about that,” Filtane said.

“What is important is how you prioritise issues. We have offices and buildings that are in a dilapidated state across the country,” he said.

“There is no need for that expenditure at all when people live in deplorable conditions.”

The DA’s Dennis Ryder, who posed parliamentary questions to Nxesi, said the allocation was a slap in the face of taxpayers, considering that there was not enough money going towards service delivery.

Ryder made an example of the pollution of the Vaal River, which was affecting the lives of people, yet there was expenditure on new carpets at the Union Buildings.

“They send the wrong message by making unnecessary expenditure while people struggle to make ends meet,” he added.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh said his party felt that the allocation for planned renovations, improvements and maintenance sounded like an excessive amount.

“A lot of that money could be put into service delivery,” he said.

“Until one sees a detailed breakdown, verified and authenticated by the department, one can't say it is outrageous, but the amount sounds outrageous.

“We always say service delivery should come first rather than service to MPs and ministers,” Singh added.

Department spokesperson Thami Mchunu could not be reached for comment.

Political Bureau