Millions of rands recovered

2013-06-12 00:00

THE provincial Human Settlements Department has recovered over R10 million from civil servants who fraudulently benefited from the government housing subsidy schemes over the past four years.

During his R3,5 billion budget speech at the legislature yesterday, MEC Ravi Pillay said they have recovered R10,6 million from government employees related to housing subsidy fraud.

Outlining the success, Pillay said the department has worked closely with the Special Investigations Unit, SAPS, the Anti-Corruption Unit and provincial Treasury.

A total of 556 dockets valued at R6,6 million were also registered with the SAPS and 449 cases resulted in successful prosecutions.

“The department is continuing to pursue criminal investigations,” Pillay said.

Also, as part of the investigations, acknowledgements of debt totalling R18,2 million were signed with non-qualifying beneficiaries.

Working with the special task team in the office of the premier, the department pursued 351 disciplinary hearings against officials across provincial departments.

“Arising from these other completed investigations, the department has finalised disciplinary cases against eight senior officials with various sanctions [imposed], including dismissals,” Pillay said.

The damning figures come a few months after it was reported in January that KZN officials remained at their desks after being slapped on the wrist.

The parliamentary report had said 1 286 civil servants, municipal officials and private individuals had signed acknowledgements of debt.

Meanwhile, the department hopes to build 27 382 houses at a cost of R2,9 billion in 2013/14. This will be up from 25 940 built in the previous financial year.

Pillay said informal settlements would also receive attention this financial year.

The province has 635 informal settlements, according to the 2011 Census, with 494 in the eThekwini Metro.

“A total of 240 projects in the informal settlement upgrade programme were approved and being implemented at various stages of the housing cycle,” Pillay said.

He said his department has called on developers to submit proposals to pilot the finance-linked individual subsidy programme for those who earned more than the bracket for low-cost housing.

He said the department would implement a five-year rental strategic plan towards providing affordable rental housing to deal with the high demand for such housing.

Pillay also expressed concern about irregularities in the allocation of low-cost houses, although there was a policy in place.

“This challenge becomes acute because of the gross disproportion between supply and demand, but we must show no mercy where there is bribery and corruption.”

The DA’s George Mari said the pace of delivery must improve.

“The DA believes that serious consideration must now be given to site and service, where beneficiaries can provide their own labour to build their own homes,” Mari said.

The IFP’s Joshua Mazibuko called on the department to tackle fraud, corruption and maladministration head-on, adding that accurate waiting lists must be drawn up and be adhered to without fear or favour.

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