EASTERN Cape human settlements MEC Helen August-Sauls yesterday came under fire from DA MPL Dacre Haddon, who accused her of misleading the public on housing fraud in the province.
Sauls, in reply to a parliamentary question to Haddon two months ago, had said that since 2009 only one contractor had been suspended by the province for housing fraud.
She also said only seven contractors had been suspended for non-performance, none had been suspended for shoddy workmanship and only one had been suspended for absconding from site during the same period.
This answer left Haddon, who is the DA’s spokesman on human settlements, questioning the statistics, saying there were numerous public cases of failed housing projects.
“The Eastern Cape department of human settlements is not being truthful about housing fraud figures in the province. How is such an answer possible?
“If this is the case, the department is either protecting fraudsters or is not taking action against offenders,” said Haddon.
Sauls dismissed Haddon’s accusations and hit back, saying he was grandstanding because he never raised the questions when she gave her answer two months ago.
She said at the time the numbers she gave were truthful, but this was no longer the case as her department was now focusing on performance.
“He could have followed that up when I gave the answer to the house two months ago. I don’t know what his agenda is,” said Sauls. “I am 100% sure the information I gave then is 100% correct, and I’ve said recently we are only now in the process of blacklisting. It’s unfortunate that he seems to want to blame me for my predecessors’ failures.”
Two years ago, the Daily Disp award-winning Broken Homes investigation, which looked into the government housing crisis in the province, exposed how 20 000 “broken homes” had cost Bhisho R360-million to fix.
In many cases the investigation found inexperienced contractors were blamed for the problems.
At the time, the then housing MEC Nombulelo Mabandla vowed to blacklist incompetent builders and recover funds from them where necessary.
Recently, a visit to Cacadu District by Eastern Cape members of the National Council of Provinces also highlighted cases of shoddy workmanship and other administrative problems.
Haddon himself cited several examples of cases where contractors committed fraud, and were paid for work not completed. These included:
A housing project in Tarkastad, where a couple of hundred houses are half completed (and now vandalised);
Zanemvula project, which is yet to deliver the promised 15 000 houses to families removed from flood plain areas in Nelson Mandela Bay;
A project at Dutywa’s Govan Mbeki township, where 700 vandalised toilets are standing in the veld; and
Ikhwezi local municipality (in Cacadu district), where two RDP houses were built on the same erf.
“The fact that the rectification of hundreds of RDP houses in the province has been seconded to the national department because of insufficient capacity in the province shows that the information given is nonsense figures,” Haddon said.
In defence, Sauls said with the exception of Zanemvula, all the other projects cited were municipal developments, and that there was a process of intervention.
She said companies found to have done shoddy work in projects were now being blacklisted.
“What he must understand is these processes take time, and one must follow legal steps, but as a department we are now taking steps to blacklist shoddy contractors. As a department, we have placed emphasis on anti-fraud and corruption. But there are processes to be followed, and we expect these companies to go to court to fight us. But we are confident because we have the necessary political backing from the premier.
“It’s unsettling that there are a high number of incomplete projects in the province,” she added. — firstname.lastname@example.org