See 3 articles published below:
—Auditor-general praises stance taken on N2 defects September 11, 2009 Edition 1
ANEL LEWIS Metro Writer – Cape Times
THE strong stance taken against housing officials accused of having misled Parliament about repair work at the N2 Gateway by the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) has been praised by the auditor-general.“This is the kind of leadership and oversight we expect to happen,” said Auditor-General Terence Nombembe.
And Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale has noted Scopa’s comments “with great concern”, saying he will act “without any equivocation” once he has received the committee’s recommendations.
The Scopa visited the flagship government housing project on Tuesday to see whether structural defects highlighted in a special auditor-general’s report had been dealt with.
However, the site visit revealed that little repair work had been done. Walls had gaping holes, there were exposed electrical cables and plumbing pipes and walls had collapsed.
Scopa chairman Themba Godi said it was clear that the committee was being “deliberately misled” by the officials from the Department of Human Settlements who had confirmed in recent hearings that the problems were being addressed.
He said the matter would be referred to the Speaker of the National Assembly so that the officials would be dealt with at the highest political level.
Human Settlements director-general Itumeleng Kotsoane said in hearings last month that structural defects, which included cracks in the walls, were being attended to.
In a statement released after Scopa’s visit to the site, Kotsoane’s department said the implementing consortiums for the project had been called in to rectify the deficiencies.
“In our opinion, if latent defects have subsequently revealed themselves, then they will have to be addressed by the implementing consortia.”
Further queries were referred to housing agency Thubelisha’s acting chief executive officer, John Duarte, who did not return messages left for him yesterday.
Nombembe said his special audit report had raised issues, but it was up to political leaders to take action. Of the committee’s concerns about the apparent misrepresentation of facts by officials, he said: “This is the kind of action we would expect.”
September 11, 2009 Edition 1 Cape Times
One has to wonder whether the officials who misled Parliament earlier this year with a promise that all was well at the N2 Gateway thought that no one would notice.
For years, from the time the first residents moved into the units at the flagship housing project, the people who live there have complained that building methods and standards were below par; they claimed that the materials used in the project were second rate; they said that, in short, the units have been falling apart since they were constructed.
Repeatedly journalists have recorded cracking walls, gaps where wind and rain come in, plumbing problems, ill-fitting timber work and even – in one astonishing shortcut – the fact that a number of units were supplied with the same front door key, leaving security hopelessly compromised.
This week the chairman of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), Themba Godi, led a team of MPs to the area to check on the repair work that Housing Director-General Itumeleng Kotsoane told them had been completed last month. They found it had not been done.
Not only that, they found broken pipes, exposed electrical wiring and collapsed walls.
Godi angrily commented that Parliament had been misled “at the expense of the poor”.
This is indeed where the real scandal lies. This multimillion-rand exercise was born because officials realised that despite the tragedy of the fires of 2000 that devastated the shantytown of Joe Slovo, the wreckage held the seeds of opportunity.
The Gateway project was meant to be the example that would change the way the poor in South Africa are housed. A pilot project, it was meant to be replicated across the country setting a new benchmark with the “breaking new ground” philosophy of dignified minimum housing standards.
Unfortunate Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale has inherited this disastrous programme. He has promised to take prompt action when he receives recommendations from Scopa.
If he succeeds in righting these wrongs, he will have earned his stripes in government.
—Scopa takes aim at lying officials: Legal action has been urged September 11, 2009 Edition 3 GAYE DAVIS – Daily News
THE chairman of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) wants action against officials who lie to the body.
Themba Godi says lying could turn parliamentary oversight into a charade.
He has written to the chairman of committees and oversight, Obed Bapela, asking that he look at “the provisions of the law” in relation to witnesses providing false information – and says ministers need to be asked what steps they plan to take against lying officials.
“We are greatly worried by this phenomenon where officials under no pressure, and for no justifiable reason, give false information and only admit under intense questioning that they were lying and apologise,” Godi’s letter says.
This week he led his committee on an inspection of homes in the government’s flagship N2 Gateway housing project in Cape Town, where they found that defects had not been fixed as claimed by the director-general of human settlements when he appeared before Scopa last month.
Last week Godi received a letter from arts and culture director-general Themba Waka-she which confirmed that his department’s chief operations officer had also lied to the committee when he appeared before it in August.
Mzukisi Madlavu had told the committee that a criminal charge had been laid against an official. When ordered to provide the case number, however, he could not do so.
Madlavu claimed he had told a junior official to lay the charge, but when asked by the committee to call him, was unable to contact him.
In a letter to Godi dated September 3, Wakashe said that since his and Madlavu’s appearance before Scopa on August 7, it “had emerged that the department had not instituted criminal proceedings…”
Wakashe said a criminal charge against the official had been laid on August 18 and that it had been referred to the Pretoria Commercial Crimes Unit for investigation.
Disciplinary steps were also being taken against the official while civil proceedings would be launched to recover money paid to the company of which he was a director. In his letter to Bapela, Godi says Scopa hearings into the effectiveness of the police 10111 call centres and service delivery by police stations had to be abandoned mid-way because of “shallow” and contradictory responses to questions.
He says the same thing happened during hearings into the N2 Gateway project last month, which had to be rescheduled to give officials a chance to prepare properly.
A similar scenario played itself out when Scopa interrogated departments about what action they were taking against officials fingered by the auditor general for their involvement in businesses getting lucrative government tenders worth billions of rands.
Godi says in his letter he wants to know whether government officials are also lying to Parliament’s other committees.
“We would like you to look at the provisions of the law, especially in relation to witnesses providing false information to Parliament.
“There is also the question of the relevant executive (minister) being made aware and demanding to know what action they will take against these officials,” says Godi.