Housing cheats made to cough up

2012-10-29 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL government officials who fraudently obtained housing subsidies are coughing up, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) was told on Friday.

The committee heard that employees had paid back over R2 million, while the KwaZulu-Natal Human Settlements Department had pursued 313 other housing fraud cases involving the public and signed up acknowledgements of debt totalling R3,4 million.

Human Settlements MEC Ravi Pillay said that working together with a special task team and the Office of the Premier, they had finalised 172 disciplinary cases against various government employees in the province.

He added that the police were investigating 115 criminal cases involving housing fraud and 60 of these were successfully prosecuted.

Scopa members were also concerned about underspending in the department, which had to return R200 million in unspent low cost housing grants to the national department last year.

Pillay said that this was unlikely to happen.

“Just this morning there was a teleconference with the national minister and we were not one of those provinces with red lights flashing.

“In fact, we were one of the three top spenders,” he said.

Pillay said that R6,7 million in the administration unit was unspent because of delays in filling posts due to a lack of suitably qualified candidates and an ongoing review of the department’s organisational structure.

A further R57 million unspent in the housing property management section was due to delays in a rectification programme involving housing stock built pre-1994.

Pillay said the National Home Builders’ Registration Council (NHBRC) was currently compiling rectification scoping reports which will indicate exactly what needs to be done to which properties.

Meanwhile, the Public Works Department was congratulated by the committee for getting an unqualified audit for the first time in five years.

The department’s previous qualified audit opinions were due to problems with its immovable assets register.

Scopa members noted that the issue, which had long been the department’s Achilles heel, had finally been addressed.

However, they warned the department to keep on top of the issue to ensure that the register was maintained.

The A-G expressed concern over certain matters, including that contracts were awarded to bidders who did not submit declarations of interest on whether they were employed by the state or related to people employed by the state.

Finance Committee chairperson Belinda Scott warned the department to ensure that the declarations were filled, but praised the department for having a system and clear database on employee misconduct and disciplinary matters.

She asked Scopa chairperson K.K. Nkosi to make it a resolution for other departments, including the legislature, to adopt the system.

• nalini@witness.co.za.

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