Durban - In 2012, eThekwini spent R73 million fixing 1 196 shoddily built RDP houses in Inanda, north of Durban.
Now, just four years later, the city is spending a further R13 million "demolishing and rebuilding" 600 of these homes.
The project's initial tender advert, which appeared in the city's EzaseGagasini newspaper of August 8-12, 2014, said the money would be for "rectification" work.
Opposition parties are livid about the added expenditure, with both the DA and IFP saying there was something "fishy" about the project.
Responding to The Mercury's detailed questions seeking comment about the troubled project, city spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa simply referred to regulation 49 of the Municipal Supply Chain Management Regulations, which states: "Anyone aggrieved by decisions or actions taken by the municipality, may lodge an appeal within 14 days of the decision or action, in writing to the municipality."
The R13 million contract was awarded in June this year. Initially, according to the advert, it was for the "rectification" of 600 houses. However, when the contract was awarded two months ago, the city said the project was for the "demolishing and rebuilding" of the homes.
The contract has been split between three companies and was awarded to Reclaim Africa Contractors, Imvusa Trading 595 and RGZ Projects.
RGZ Projects, in a 2011 auditor-general report, was found to have benefited from irregular expenditure in the refurbishment of the city's rental stock.
The awarding of the June contracts appears to be in defiance of a directive by the Department of Human Settlements last year that the government would no longer foot the bill to fix defective homes built after 2004.
The trouble started in November 2011 when the city's housing department invited tenders for the "rectification" of 1 178 RDP homes in the Emaplazini housing project.
The contract was awarded to Tauris Garden Trading 500. The company has been identified by a KPMG report as one of five allegedly colluding to secure city contracts worth about R750 million. The contract was one of the 32 investigated by the audit firm. In an earlier article, a representative of Tauris said they could not comment on those allegations as the investigation was ongoing.
The Mercury visited the area last week, spoke to residents and observed the shocking state of some of the homes.
According to residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the houses being fixed were built in the mid-'90s. Owners of most have extended the tiny RDP homes. Some now have two RDP structures instead of the initial structures being "rectified". Very few had been fixed and, in some instances, the homes had been abandoned.
In 2008, the municipality announced it would be taking over six incomplete housing department projects that failed because of the collapse of section 21 companies contracted to do the work. Many were of extremely poor quality and needed to be "rectified". No legal action was taken against any contractors.
The Emaplazini housing project was one of six in the Inanda area.
"There's something fishy in all of this," said IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi. "It cannot be that a company can be awarded a contract, then another company should be appointed to finish the work. This is obviously plundering, certain business people need to get tenders. When we get to council, these are some of the issues we will be raising."
Nkosi's sentiments were echoed by DA councillor Tex Collins, who said his party would query the Emaplazini contract.
"These houses were very shoddily built. In fact, very few houses are properly built in eThekwini."
He said it was only recently that "there was a semblance of order" in the housing department.
Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, in her budget vote last year, announced that the government would no longer finance the fixing of defective houses.
"Any house that has defaults is the responsibility of the NHBRC (National Home Builders Registration Council), which is responsible to identify the contractor and ensure that they rectify the shoddy work.
"The money currently used on rectification can and will be used in building more houses," she said .