Scrap public works

2014-07-20 15:02

Honestly, do we really need the department of public works? Has it brought us anything but embarrassment and scandal?

Example 1: Nkandla. The department, unable to contain spending, has ushered President Jacob Zuma into the most severe scandal of his administration.

At a cost of almost R250?million, we are no closer to the truth about the splurge than MaKhumalo is to being able to enjoy her tuck shop without the glare of the Public Protector and now the Special Investigating Unit.

If public works had done its work properly, there would be no need for all this because they would have applied the law and kept the renovations minimal.

This department’s spending on what it calls its “prestige portfolio” – the bling spending on the publicly funded homes of VIPs – is a shocker waiting to be investigated further.

Example 2: Leases. Need we say more. Former top cop turned Deputy Minister of Agriculture Bheki Cele lost his perch because of a leasing scandal for a police building.

Public works runs the state’s lease book and it is a complete feeding trough where, as Minister Thulas Nxesi revealed this week, we have been paying far in excess of market rates for buildings the state did not know about.

Yet some property consultants made a lot of money and, apparently, paid huge kickbacks to some department staffers.

It’s a rat’s hole at the department and a cursory glance at its spending on getting rid of malfeasant staff suggests the quantum is enough to build a small town or a reservoir for the good people of North West whose babies are dying from water infested with E.?coli.

Why does the state have to have a department to lease buildings?

Example 3: Public works also runs the huge property portfolio of government, but by all accounts, it does so very inefficiently, turning it into a cost centre rather than a revenue generator for the fiscus.

Why not parcel it out to the public in shares and run it professionally. In that way, entrepreneurs or the people can benefit from the property as surety for capital.

There is but one thing that works very well: the Expanded Public Works Programme.

It is an international centre of best practice for providing infrastructure and temporary employment for millions of people.

Let’s keep this part but scrap the rest.

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