Caption: National Minister for the Department of Public Works, Thulas Nxesi in Durban yesterday. Picture: Colleen Dardagan

Cape Town - Public Works was reclaiming its full authority over state property, even where departments and state institutions had made their own arrangements for office accom-modation, under a new state property management agency, it emerged on Thursday.

“Yes, it is reclaiming (properties). It’s a cabinet decision,” Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said after announcing the establishment of the agency to oversee all government properties following this week’s cabinet meeting.

In recent years various national government departments and at least two Chapter 9 institutions have been permitted to acquire and manage their own office accommodation.

While this mostly went unnoticed, controversy rocked the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) head office lease and, earlier, the SAPS was embroiled in a R1.7-billion Pretoria head office scandal.

The government has an estimated 73 000 properties - in 1999, the state’s property portfolio was valued at R120bn. The new agency is touted as Public Works reclaiming its mandate to accommodate all state departments and facilities such as courts, police stations, labour and social development offices.

It follows a review of 2 162 state leases and anti-corruption measures that have led to disciplinary charges against at least 50 Public Works officials. Eight civil and criminal proceedings are pending as the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is investigating.

Public Works acting state property trading entity head Dhaya Govender said the agency would be formed from the trading entity, which had been dormant since its formation in 2006, and would be operationalised by next April in line with public service and administration and National Treasury regulations.

Around 100 professionals, including property managers, would be recruited on performance contracts to drive the agency, while Public Works was also exploring co-operation with universities and other tertiary education institution to ensure necessary skills were available. Retraining of existing Public Works staff was on the cards.

Govender said the agency would fulfil its service mandate within five years, but it would take up to 15 years to complete its phasing-in. “Municipalities, we may only be able to take in in phase two.”

The state property legislative remit only covered national and provincial government.

Cape Argus