( In the pic - Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu during the Social Protection, Community and Human Development Cluster Media briefing chaired by Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini via link up from Tshedimosetso House to Imbizo Media Centre, Cape Town, 15/02/2015. Siyasanga Mbambani/DoC.
( In the pic - Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu during the Social Protection, Community and Human Development Cluster Media briefing chaired by Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini via link up from Tshedimosetso House to Imbizo Media Centre, Cape Town, 15/02/2015. Siyasanga Mbambani/DoC.

Poor workmanship halts housing delivery

By Don Makatile Time of article published May 17, 2015

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Durban -

Corruption and maladministration have become a spanner in the works for the government as it tries to accelerate Reconstruction and Development (RDP) housing service delivery.

This has subsequently increased its annual budget to fix thousands of houses that were deemed substandard and uninhabitable as a result of poor workmanship by contractors.

The Ministry of Human Settlements has spent more than R2 billion over the past three years to fix RDP houses that had been poorly built by contractors, some of whom have not been blacklisted from doing further work for the government.

A total of 26 459 houses have so far been rectified after the shoddy work of building contractors in terms of the National Rectification Programme, which was cancelled by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu on March 31.

A Statistics SA General Household Survey conducted between 2002 and 2010 revealed that 31 percent of 1.8 million people who received the RDP houses regarded them as substandard and uninhabitable.

A subsequent national survey in 2011 found that 17 percent of RDP owners complained about the walls and 18 percent about the roof.

Sisulu’s spokesman, Ndivhuwo Mabaya, said the government would intensify efforts “to find the contractors and developers who built the low quality houses to fix them”.

But in the meantime, the minister’s view is that those who received government-issued houses must fix them “as part of maintaining the houses”, Mabaya says.

The minister and the provincial Housing MECs will only consider extending help to indigent people, pensioners and the disabled or direct the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) to use its warranty fund to fix affected houses.

The rectification drive has been thorny ever since Director-General Thabane Zulu told the human settlements portfolio committee during the tenure of former minister Tokyo Sexwale that the department would need approximately R58bn to fix the sub-standard housing.

The department’s annual budget at the time was a paltry R16.3 billion a year and according to calculations, it would have taken the department more than 40 years to fix the houses, with no other service delivery taking place.

Ever since, the government has every year engaged in this damage control exercise to rebuild the houses throughout the country: a total 7 450 units in 2011/12; 9 177 in 2012/13 and 10 507 units in 2013/14.

The total cost of all repairs and rebuilds stands at R2 214 843 000.

The contention has always been that while it was unacceptable for people to live in substandard and uninhabitable houses, urgent action needed to be taken to ensure the rogue contractors were not only held accountable but were barred from engaging in future government contracts.

Mabaya said the department had a special investigative unit to monitor the work of these builders: “The SIU (Special Investigations Unit) has investigated a number of contractors and some of them have gone into out-of-court settlements to fix the houses.

“In Limpopo, some contractors have been blacklisted by Treasury,” he said.

“The NHBRC has also blacklisted some other contractors.

“When there is a low quality of work, we give the contractor an opportunity to fix it and, if after investigations, we find that they have failed, we take steps to blacklist them.

“In some cases, we take away the very NHBRC certificate that allows them to build houses. The minister insists that contractors and builders who do shoddy work must be blacklisted, their NHBRC certificate withdrawn and the money recovered from them to fix the houses. There is no room for low quality of work.”

But Mabaya gave no assurance the culprits will be expunged from the system.

They will be blacklisted only for a specified period.

“Depending on the offence, we will determine the timeframe of blacklisting them. But what is of importance is recovering the money (from them) to fix the houses.”

But while this pussyfooting around blacklisting continues, the unscrupulous contractors continue creaming it by building houses for the poor that they cannot live in.

Sunday Independent

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