Crackdown on leaky RDP deals proving to be costly

KwaZulu-Natal’s human settlements ministry has cracked down on dodgy housing contractors, whose shoddy work on RDP houses is costing the province more than R1 billion in demolition and rebuilding costs.

At the same time, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), has launched 13 investigations into a number of housing contractors and provincial and municipal officials over tender irregularities, corruption and other offences.

A number of the investigations are focused on tenders and contracts within the eThekwini Municipality, particularly contracts issued in terms of emergency funding regulations used to pay for housing projects.

This resulted in unauthorised expenditure of more than R500?million in the last financial year.

This week human settlements and public works MEC Maggie Govender ordered the demolition of 493 low-cost houses in Underberg. They were built by Ntokozweni Developers as part of a project to build 1?200 houses.

About 80% of the 27?000 RDP houses inspected by the department since last May will have to be demolished and rebuilt.

On Thursday Govender and Premier Zweli Mkhize met with contractors to outline the changed regulations.

In terms of the new policy:
»No contractor can hold more than four housing contracts at any time;
»Large housing projects are being broken down into smaller, more manageable phases involving more contractors;
»All new contracts will have definite time frames;
»No contractor will be paid until work is completed and ­inspected to the department’s satisfaction;
»No contractor will be allowed to “bank” tenders and take on work that can only be completed at a later stage; and
»Existing contracts will be ­reviewed and terminated if contractors are not performing.

“Since last May we have been putting systems in place to ensure improved delivery. Projects cannot take up to five years to complete because contractors have taken on more work than they can handle or where they are subcontracting to unregistered companies,’’ said Govender.

She said more cases would be opened in the SIU probe. Four staff members have already been arrested for fraud and have ­appeared in court.

The province has also drawn in bodies from the building, engineering and quantity surveying fields to act as an inspectorate on all state housing projects.

Dodgy contractors will be blacklisted and referred to the National Home Builders’ Registration Council for disciplinary action.

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