R398?mln to fix housing projects

2013-12-04 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Human Settlements Department has splashed out R398 million since 2004 to fix low-cost houses that had been shoddily built.

In Durban, the shoddy workmanship had seen the cost of repairs almost triple the original estimates — from R34,6 million for the Westrich housing project in Newlands to R92,6 million.

And because the companies had since been liquidated or are now being would up, the department has not been able to recoup some of the money.

This shocking revelation emerged in a response by Human Settlements MEC Ravi Pillay to a parliamentary question posed by IFP’s Joshua Mazibuko.

“Without any question the reconstruction and development programme has met many problems in the form of shoddy workmanship in the building of low-cost houses.

“Consequently, in many areas the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements has been compelled to order the demolition and rebuilding or rectification of many low-cost houses,” Pillay said.

He listed at least 24 shoddily built housing projects worth about R217 million carried out by eight construction companies.

In the eThekwini Municipality, R154 million was awarded to companies that built poor quality houses while R62 million was spent in Ladysmith.

The department spent R113 million to repair houses in Ladysmith, R250 million in eThekwini and R35 million in the Umzimkhulu Municipality.

The biggest tender was awarded to Umsekeli-Hume housing for the R52 million Burlington station housing project, near Chatsworth.

Other big shoddy workmanship tenders were awarded to Effingham Housing for the R31,1 million Quarry Heights housing project, Emaplazini people’s housing to the tune of R26,6 million, also in Durban, and Sarkum for the R4,8 million Ezakheni project.

However, the costs to rebuild the houses had doubled or tripled because the houses went from 18 square metres to 40 square metres, and building material prices had risen.

Although steps had been taken to reclaim the wasted funds from the construction companies, Pillay said it was difficult to recover any amounts after the National Home Builders Registration Council conducted assessments on the defective houses.

“The findings were that at the time of construction of these projects, there were no norms and standards to measure non-compliance by the contractors.

“In some projects, Section 21 companies established from the communities were the developers responsible for construction of houses and were no longer in existence. In some projects it was found that the contractors were liquidated,” he said.

But, Mazibuko said his party was shocked that the department had not recovered any money from the companies or had anyone prosecuted despite the liquidation or non-existence of those who had been engaged in shoddy workmanship.

“This is a classic example of a government which lacks political courage and will to deal decisively with all forms of fraud, corruption and mediocrity. This may be due to the fact that those who had been awarded tenders were connected to those in power in one way of another,” he said.

He said when the IFP reclaimed power in KwaZulu-Natal, it would pursue all options to ascertain whether there was no way to force those who robbed the poor to pay back.

“We will need these millions of rands to address the backlogs in housing delivery,” Mazibuko said.

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