WARNING LIGHTS FLICKER AS EASTERN CAPE HOUSING DELIVERY FALTERS

Only 3 395 houses or 15 percent of the 22 000 houses planned to be built during the current financial year for the Department of Human Settlements have been completed.

The half-yearly departmental performance report states that by 30 September 2010, 50% or 10 354 houses should have been completed according to the set target.

While 15 381 other houses are at various stages of construction, there is still an additional shortfall of 3 224 houses to be built this year if the department is to attain the 22 000 target.

At the half-year performance in September 2009, the department had performed better, with the construction of 7 731 units or 40.7 % of the 2009/10 target of 19 000 housing units.

These figures emerged at a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Housing (Human Settlements) at the Bhisho Legislature yesterday (subs: Thurs, 28 Oct) to review the half-year performance of the department.

The voted departmental budget for the 2010/11 financial year is R1.826 billion.

Of particular concern is the Conditional Grant Expenditure (the money from government that actually goes to building houses) of 44% spent for the building of houses to date.

Another worry is that the department in 2009 was being assisted by an Intervention team from national government to achieve their targets. Since then the intervention by national has ceased.

The actual half-year expenditure for the department stands at R796.411 million against a budgeted half yearly target of R913.024 million.

This represents a departmental expenditure of 43.6 percent, which is less than the 55.9 percent spent at the half year stage of the 2009/10 budget.

It is clear from these figures that as things currently stand, provincial housing will fail to deliver sufficient houses and will not spend the entire allocated housing budget by year end.

This is a serious situation especially given the growing discontent and anger among communities waiting for housing.

It is unacceptable that individuals have to wait so long for access to housing especially as this is mandated by the Constitution.

Amongst the housing delivery targets of the ten provincial districts, Alfred Nzo was scheduled to have a target of 292 houses built by the financial year end.

Presently no houses have been constructed to date in this rural impoverished area.

Despite assurances from the MEC of the department that they have instituted a rescue plan to address this problem, the committee has not been furnished with precise details of what this plan entails.

Among the problems cited by the MEC for the decrease in housing delivery so far this year in the province, were the public servants’ strike, a dispute with NEHAWU, the expiry of the contract of the HoD and a staff vacancy rate of 57% within the department.

However, further analyses shows that the biggest staff vacancies arise in the lower to middle management categories — the staff who are actually at the coalface and delivery of the department.

Staff who are graded at the levels 1-10 have vacancy rates ranging from 59-68%.

The Senior Management have a vacancy rate of only 13% and reported that some senior managers have no subordinates under them.

Of particular concern is in the area of quality control where control works inspectors, mandated to oversee the quality of housing construction, has a 46% vacancy rate.

In certain categories of engineers and architects the department still splutters along with

100% vacancy rate.

The DA calls for a new direction for housing in the province.

Citizens and beneficiaries wanting housing must be empowered and given choice to access their own housing needs.

This can only be done if the current department becomes a facilitator of housing opportunity rather than a provider and operates in an efficient and lean manner.

By so doing the costs savings would be substantial thus ploughing these savings into assisting even more citizens to obtain choice housing that meets their individual needs.

I will on behalf of the DA be vigilant in ensuring that this process of change starts happening within this department.