Housing contractor flees country with R22 mln

2008-11-06 00:00

A KwaZulu-Natal contractor who overseas with more than R22 million in taxpayers’ money will get away with it — because South Africa has no extradition treaty with New Zealand.

Peter Guy Pitcher won a tender to develop a R24 million housing project in Bruntville, Mooi River, for the KZN Housing Department. However, halfway through the project, he left the houses half built and fled the country while he was still under investigation.

Now the government accuses him of siphoning off R22 million of the R24 million project budget.

In 1997, Pitcher was awarded a tender to build 1 423 homes when Peter Miller was still the MEC for housing.

The houses he built are of such poor quality that the department has recently started demolishing them and spending R88 million building new ones.

Housing MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu said yesterday the government has given up on getting Pitcher back to South Africa to face trial.

“Government has tried and failed to get the developer back to South Africa. A comprehensive investigation was done by our department and the national Department of Housing, but we were told that extradition would not happen,” he said.

“What happened in this housing project has been a learning curve for government. Strict measures were not put in place to prevent what has happened because it was one of the earliest housing projects. We now make sure that all the contractors that we appoint are registered and have a good track record,” he said.

Mabuyakhulu said no official in his department will be fired, despite the fact that they had failed to monitor Pitcher’s work.

“Both our investigation and the one done by the national department found that no official in the department was to blame for what happened. We are also pleased that the national government has given us money to rebuild homes.”

The department has started demolishing poorly built homes and building new ones. Neli Vilakazi, one of the people whose homes have been rebuilt, cried when Mabuyakhulu gave her the new home. The new homes are not only of good quality, but also bigger than the ones built by Pitcher.

“We thought that these homes would never be fixed again. Our house was on the verge of collapsing and it was becoming dangerous to us. Some people had started fixing them on their own. We also wanted to fix it, but we did not have money to do it,” she said.

Mabuyakhulu said the provincial government is also not happy with the quality of homes built in Pietermaritzburg’s Edendale township, saying that they will also be demolished and new ones built.

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