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Public Works Department says closure of state buildings in Pretoria is illegal

Last week, Independent Media reported that several government departments had been closed after the Bothongo Group locked its buildings leased to the government over the non-payment of rent. Picture: Werner Beukes-SAPA

Last week, Independent Media reported that several government departments had been closed after the Bothongo Group locked its buildings leased to the government over the non-payment of rent. Picture: Werner Beukes-SAPA

Published Mar 15, 2022

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The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has described the closure of several national government buildings in Pretoria as illegal because the owners did not have a court order.

The department said the allegations and illegal actions by the Bothongo Group were an attempt to deflect from the evidence of overpayments that it had presented to multiple landlords and was in the process of resolving.

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”The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure wishes to set the record straight regarding the illegal closure of buildings in Pretoria by a landlord who claimed rent had not been paid … It is important to note that the closing of the buildings is illegal as no court order has been granted to evict the client departments or close the buildings,” the department said.

Last week, Independent Media reported that several government departments had been closed after the Bothongo Group locked its buildings leased to the government over the non-payment of rent.

According to the department, while most landlords were working with it in good faith to correct these problems, one landlord in Pretoria engaged in unethical conduct through the illegal action of shutting buildings housing several government departments and institutions.

The department said it had committed itself to resolving the matter speedily, in good faith, cost effectively and with a view to finding a long-term solution to correct the issue of landlords charging the state inflated rental costs.

”Through the landlord’s consultant, negotiations with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure resulted in a commitment to unlocking the buildings,” the department said.

The department is reviewing the price per square metre it has been paying, investigating the invoices received and assessing the value and condition of the buildings it has been leasing.

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Other interventions include reviewing the cost of month-on-month leases, and scrutinising historical and long-term leases.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a proclamation for the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to probe leases that the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure had with landlords.

“These multiple processes have uncovered several issues that the department is undertaking to remedy. Chief among these has been correcting situations where landlords have been overpaid. In several cases, the prices per square metre have been inflated well above market rates, and in other instances invoices were submitted more than once for the same thing,” the department said.

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The department has been meeting with landlords who are disputing its payment records and gave notice to them that it would stop paying rent going forward, using the advance or historical overpayment.

It wants the companies to correct the overpayments as its client departments are also made aware of these developments.

However, one landlord in Pretoria who had been overpaid did not accept the deal the department put on the table.

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The department leases 17 buildings from the Bothongo Group for six state institutions, including the National Treasury, the SAPS, the Department of Water and Sanitation, the Department of Higher Education, the Department of Justice and Department of Defence.

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Political Bureau

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