Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille made her mark during the first sitting of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new Cabinet this week.
De Lille made it clear that the department would not be entertaining any requests for new furniture for offices, ministerial homes or parliamentary villages.
At least two sources privy to the Cabinet meeting said De Lille’s concerns about cost-saving were accepted as these views were shared by the president.
City Press understands that De Lille raised concerns about the need to take cost-cutting measures in the department seriously.
She is said to be concerned about the high cost of buying new furniture with each new administration.
She believes that a lot of money can be saved if the furniture, which is currently in ministerial homes and offices, is repaired instead of replaced.
It has been common practice for new ministers to demand changes when they move into government-owned homes that their predecessors occupied.
Millions of rands have been spent on expensive furniture, carpets, curtains, braai facilities and even patios to suit the styles of the newly appointed ministers.
When asked about her hardline stance on spending by ministers, De Lille replied that she could not comment on Cabinet discussions.
De Lille, who is leader of the Good Party and the only non-ANC member in Cabinet, also announced ahead of this week’s state of the nation address that her department had been able to “cut costs from R2.3 million to R500 000 in line with government’s austerity measures”.
The public works and infrastructure department is responsible for all of government’s buildings in the country.
In an interview with City Press’ sister publication, Rapport, this week, De Lille said she plans to audit the department’s asset register to determine the state of buildings owned by the department.
“For example, our courts are in a terrible state. I asked the managers at these courts to report in thorough detail on the backlog of maintenance – such as broken lifts or air conditioning.”
De Lille also said that she would look to convince the private sector to play its part in the creation and maintenance of infrastructure in the country.
The minister believes that a model of “building, managing and transferring” should be considered.
“This means the private sector builds infrastructure, manages it for a period of, say, 20 years and then transfers it to the state.
“We need to consider all these different methods,” she said. – Additional reporting by Liesl Peyper