Officials suspended over irregular payments

2012-09-13 21:01
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Bloemfontein - Three more senior provincial officials have been suspended after irregular payments to housing contractors, Free State Human Settlements MEC Olly Mlamleli said on Thursday.

"The payments relate to incomplete projects," said Mlamleli.

This brings to nine the number of senior officials suspended in the provincial department.

The department announced in July it would investigate various alleged irregularities in the department.

Soon afterwards six senior officials - two chief directors and four directors - were put on precautionary leave.

The alleged irregularities related to the manipulation of the individual subsidy system, the allocation lists of contractors, advance payments done on work by contractors and poor or no inspections done by technical staff.

Mlamleli said the disciplinary hearings of the first six officials had already begun.

The extent of the alleged irregularities and the amounts involved were not immediately clear.

However, Mlamleli said 20 000 outstanding projects (individual houses) had been identified, and of these 9 000 had been investigated.

She said the irregularities were found to be in all governmental subsidised housing programmes.

"Wherever there is a incomplete housing programme, it affects all: cities, towns and rural areas," the MEC said.

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale recently told the portfolio committee on housing that wrongful housing allocations by senior Free State managers and irregular expenditure had so far amounted to R500m.

Head of the Free State Human Settlements department Nthimotse Mokhesi said the money had not disappeared.

"We are following where it had gone, it's advance payments done. We were able to reconcile material and work-in-progress of R57m up to now."

Mlamleli said she was not aware of Sexwale's threat to put her department under administration.

"It is not on my desk [documents], there has been no mail. I have seen no threat."

Earlier this year, Mlamleli said the Free State would not build any new houses this financial year and would rather focus on completing and rectifying existing housing projects.

A budget of R960m had been allocated for the department's total housing responsibility.

The special investigating unit has also started new investigations regarding payments made to certain building material suppliers, the department said.

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