A DEPARTMENT of human settlements portfolio committee meeting was called off yesterday, after most committee members failed to turn up to play their oversight role.

When MEC Helen Sauls-august and her senior officials, including the head, Gaster Sharpley, arrived for the meeting at 8.30am, they found empty chairs, leaving them with no choice but to feast on the snacks provided.

Of the eight-member committee, only the UDM’S Max Mhlathi, the DA’S Dacre Haddon and the ANC’S Chris Martin arrived.

Even committee chairperson Dennis Neer did not arrive.

Mhlathi described the meeting as important as the department was going to present a new housing delivery system to the committee before taking it for approval to the provincial cabinet.

Another important item for discussion was a white paper on the eradication of informal settlements in the province.

Speaking to the Daily Dispatch, the DA’S Haddon said: “It’s a pity the meeting didn’t go ahead because we have two crucial things to discuss – the long-awaited bill on the eradication of informal settlements and the new service delivery system.

“We are talking about the lives of people, a marginalised community that needs to have assurance and some assistance as to what options are open to them.

“The bill is a year late; the sooner we can discuss it the sooner the department can implement it.”

The UDM’S Mhlathi said: “We called the MEC and the SG to apologise earlier because the chairperson didn’t show up.

“The meeting was very important because we had to approve the new model of housing delivery.

“We were surprised as to why the chairperson did not attend the meeting.

“It gives an indication that people do not care.”

Mhlathi said the officials from the department were told to present the two items at a strategic workshop to be held in Port Elizabeth in March 1.

According to an official from the department the system proposes the fast-tracking of processes that take a long time.

Contractors will sign binding contracts with the department unlike currently where they do not have detailed contracts with set targets.

The system will also look into housing beneficiary management.

In the past, municipalities across the province have been plagued with fraud and corruption where municipal officials and councillors would issue houses to their relatives.

In Makana Municipality, emerging contractors went on a strike after the department reportedly failed to pay them.

The multimillion-rand project they were working on was stalled until the department paid them.

This new system, the official said, would ensure this never happens again.

The department will have to wait for the committee to sit and decide on another date before they can present the system for consideration. — abongilem@dispatch. / zineg@dispatch.co.za