Public Works was a ‘cash cow’

2011-09-22 10:53

The department of public works used to be run like a “cash cow”, Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde said in Sandton today.

“Contracts are given to people who don’t even have a clue what they are supposed to do,” she told delegates at the Engineering Council of SA’s summit.

The number of bridges and roads falling apart were a direct attack on engineering, she said. She asked delegates to give her the names of six engineers she could present to President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma announced recently that South Africa would have an infrastructure commission and engineers such as those gathered at the conference were needed “yesterday” to help the government.

She did not refer specifically to a finding by the public protector that she was accountable, along with national police commissioner General Bheki Cele, for two multi-million rand leases for police buildings allegedly unlawfully agreed to with businessman Roux Shabangu.

She said the Special Investigating Unit did a random check on the department in Gauteng and found all 41 leases they checked were not compliant.

“It’s a shame. I am paying for buildings that are falling apart. Many are not being used, or maintained. They are just empty,” she said.

Renovations to Zuma’s official residence were recently quoted at R135 million.

“I don’t even think Michael Jackson could use that kind of money,” she said.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde had asked for a check to be done, and her people came back to her with the conclusion: “If we can reach R15 million it will be too much.

“There are unscrupulous people who just want to take money that is meant for South Africans into their pockets. I need you. We have allowed thieves and thugs to run our country.”

She did not know how much longer she would be in her job, and joked about her “big mouth”, but she would not keep quiet just because she was a minister.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to stay. Even if it is three months it will be (three months of) good decisions.”

The government intends cancelling the police building lease agreement through a court application filed recently.

The department had also instituted audits of tenders.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde was appointed 10 months ago.

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