This budget debate takes place when our province is engulfed with the Covid 19 Pandemic, like the rest of the country. Our province is peculiar because we are amongst the rural provinces in our country. The Covid 19 pandemic has exposed the need for decent houses especially amongst the poor in the province.
The budget for human settlements in the province has been declining for a number of years. Unfortunately it is further shrinking and decreasing in 2020/2021 financial year with a whopping R82 million besides a huge demand for housing.
What worries us as the DA is that there is a decrease of 6,7 % in programme 3 which is about Housing Development.
Whilst there is a decrease in the budget allocation the department has spent 84% of its total budget including its Equitable and Conditional grant allocation as at 31 March 2020. According to the department amongst the factors causing this under expenditure is non-cooperation by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality on projects.
It should be noted that the challenges highlighted by the report of the committee are important and are not new. It is quite strange that the provincial department of human settlements does not have a clear defined role in the catalytic projects implemented through HDA by the nation department.
The department working with municipalities has been struggling to deal with land acquisition and management. This makes the department to be unable to deal with eradication of informal settlements in the province. The DA run Kouga municipality has allocated land to the department for the housing development. I hope that the department will take this important opportunity and build houses for the community of Kouga.
According to the MECs policy speech the department has terminated 13 contracts due to poor performance. What is puzzling is that there is still no consequence management implemented by the department on these contractors.
As the DA we are shocked that there are still projects which require variation orders and seemingly the department is unable to handle these. As the DA we agree with the committee that the department must provide us with the list of all the projects that needs variation orders and also must provide reasons for each of these projects.
The department is facing a huge problem of illegal occupation of houses throughout the province. The department has not concluded the correct beneficiary occupation in all municipalities. This has resulted in the continuing crises of houses that are occupied by illegal beneficiaries.
In fact even in the municipalities that the department indicated it has concluded the Correct Beneficiary Occupation, there seems to be no coherent, efficient statistics on the number of houses that are illegally occupied. There is also no concrete plan in place on how to deal with the crises of illegally occupied houses in the province.
In Programme 1 the findings of the committee are that the department’s support and maintenance of its ICT has decreased from 55% to 57%.This will impact on the need of the department to have a reliable information.
As the DA we are proposing that land acquisition and site maintenance should be a priority of the department this financial year. This will ensure that the eradication of informal settlements is a priority. Currently the department does not even have a plan on how to implement de-densification in the province. Land Acquisition and Site management must also be followed by a comprehensive programme to stop illegal invasions of land.
As the DA we also propose that there is a need to totally revamp the Housing Subsidy Needs System to reflect correct and accurate information. This must also include digitalizing the beneficiary list process to ensure that there is transparency and accountability. This must also be followed by fully implementing the correct beneficiary occupation in all municipalities for us to have a precise data and information.
We propose that the department implement an ICT driven tracking system from house planning, building process, quality assurance and to house occupation. This will deal with the problem of houses who are finished but remain vacant.
The Covid 19 Pandemic has exposed us that by government working with private sector we can achieve a lot. As the DA we have always called for the government to work with private sector in the implementation and provision of decent housing. This partnership can assist the department with the following:
- Cheaper and innovative ways of building houses;
- Setting up of and assistance with mix human settlements and housing provision;
- Project Plan Capacity and Implementation;
Our province will still have a challenge of dealing with all the homeless people who are placed in various shelters during the lockdown period as a result of Covid 19.As the DA we will table our proposals in dealing with this in the upcoming months.
As the DA we are disappointed that there is a decrease in the budget for 2020/2021 in the provision of houses especially at this period hence as the DA we note this budget.