Popcru in court over housing
Pretoria - Prisons labour union Popcru said on Monday it has filed court papers to contest the department of correctional services' new housing policy.
"The application has been made... the affidavit was filed by our lawyers two weeks ago but no correspondence has been received on whether or not the department will oppose this," said Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) spokesperson Victor Dladla.
Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has in the past voiced concern over accommodation, especially as there had not been any policy in place to govern the issue.
In a statement on Monday, she expressed shock at the union's intention, as the drafting of the policy followed years of successive warnings by Treasury regarding the issue of "double-dipping" by some officials.
"While receiving housing allowances as part of their salary packages, they [some officials] were also incorrectly benefiting from state accommodation located on the terrain of our correctional facilities at cost to the state."
Therefore, the new policy will ensure that officials who need to live on correctional services' property in line with security considerations continue to do so. Those who do not need to live there will no longer be allowed to do so.
The implementation of the policy comes as a result of recommendations by the Auditor General following a probe into the abuse of state accommodation by officials.
"It is in this context that a comprehensive housing policy was developed," said the minister's spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga.
However, Dladla said the minister approved the policy in December without consulting Popcru as promised.
"This sours relationships. If they want to implement recommendations by the Auditor they need to consult. There are some areas of concern on the policy content itself and other legalities that needed to be looked at," said Dladla.
"They are changing the current arrangement on how official state housing should be issued to employees... They want to do away with their obligation to issue official accommodation." However, Mbananga emphasised that housing was not a work benefit nor a right of employment.
"It is rather a work facility that has been available in the department as a consequence of the environment within which we work."