Govt bid to pay less office rent

2013-03-13 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal government is to carry out a R9 million study to gauge the feasibility of building a government office park that will house the headquarters of provincial departments, KZN Finance MEC Ina Cronjé said yesterday.

The study comes amid the “massive” amounts paid by the provincial departments to lease offices from private developers.

Cronjé said the study was motivated by overcrowding in the current rented offices.

“A number of departments are seriously overcrowded. It is not fair to expect staff to perform optimally,” she said.

Cronjé also said the undisclosed money spent on renting office accommodation was proving to be too costly.

“Most of the offices belong to private people … These private individuals up the prices and we end up paying dearly.”

She also said the office rentals in Pietermaritzburg were proving not to be an investment after all to the KZN government.

“When you pay rent, the money is gone. You are not investing,” she said.

“That money that is spent on office accommodation is quite massive,” said Cronjé at a press conference after delivering her budget speech.

She could not, however, give exact figures.

According to acting senior general manager for financial management Hermann Conradie, the feasibility study would be completed within two months, and thereafter a decision would be taken on whether to go ahead with building the mooted office park or not.

He added that the feasibility study was also motivated by requests from individual departments asking for funding to build their own offices. “Part of the exercise is not to have ad hoc buildings,” Conradie said.

Local developers were unfazed, saying the demand for office space was so high that it would not be a case of government deserting the centre of town. There were still district and regional offices to accommodate, they said.

The feasibility study would not be the first undertaken by the provincial government into offices in Pietermaritzburg.

A few years ago, the KZN Legislature did a similar exercise for a parliamentary precinct at its own cost and the Treasury did another for the provincial administration.

Provincial Treasury head of department, Simiso Magagula, said the previous studies had been frozen by the cabinet because of lack of funds. Magagula said the new study was basically to revive and take from where the shelved studies left off.

CEO of Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, Melanie Veness, said: “The development is positive. There is a shortage of office space.”

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