Debate on the Department of Human Settlements 2019/20 Annual Report

Speech by Hon. B.W. Dhlamini
IFP Gauteng MPL

 

Honourable Madam Speaker
Honourable Madam Deputy Speaker
Honourable Premier
Members of the Gauteng Executive Council
Honourable Members
Members of the Media
The Citizens of Gauteng

Madam Speaker, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has always been cognizant of the fact that the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) does not have all the resources necessary to fund the ever-growing need for housing infrastructure in the province. But, when this Department underspends its budget by over R280 million and scores a series of own goals like we have seen in the dismal under-achievements of its targets for the 2019/20 financial year, we must call a spade a spade.

During the period under review, the Department of Human Settlements not only failed to meet its service delivery targets, as it did in previous years; but it has also failed to realise value for money in its spending. As much as the Department spent 95% of its budget allocation, that did not translate to the same level of performance and impact on the ground.

Madam Speaker, if there was at least one critical area where the IFP was hoping for the Department to improve its performance, it was in the pace of fixing hostels. After all, during the 2019 SOPA, the Honourable Premier committed to ending the marginalisation of hostel communities in Gauteng and said the following words, and I quote: “We will ensure that hostel residents are not left behind, by including them as beneficiaries of the new mega human settlements, whilst upgrading the existing hostels. They must also enjoy a better life that millions of our residents, who have decent shelter, are now enjoying”. Following the Premier’s promise, last year (on 05 March 2020 to be exact) the Finance MEC, Hon. Nkomo-Ralehoko, announced that this government had earmarked approximately R65 million for the emergency intervention and upgrading of hostels. Despite all the promises made in recent years, nothing has moved. The Department has now progressed to the 2020/21 financial year, we have been tabled with its 3rd Quarter Report for 2020/21, and no account of the funds which were committed to be set aside for hostel upgrades has been provided. Iphi imali?

The optimism we once had, that things would improve when the incumbent Hon. MEC Maile took over this portfolio in 2019, is now vanishing and being replaced by outright exasperation over the delays caused by the Department’s inefficiencies and lack of leadership. These delays effectively deny citizens the opportunity of enjoying a progressively higher quality of life and the restoration of their dignity.

Just over a week ago, we were part of the Human Settlements Portfolio Committee Oversight Visit to some hostels owned by the province, at Denver and George Goch, where residents relayed their issues – ranging from cancelled maintenance contracts, inadequate housing, and general neglect by the Department of Human Settlements. Ikomiti lizibonele abantu bahlalisa okwezi ngulube and the Department just does not care.

Suffice to say, the word “disappointment” does not even begin to describe how hostel residents feel let down by the number of continuously unfulfilled promises made by this government. Whereas the Premier promised that hostel residents would not be left behind in development, the Department has managed to do exactly that. This proves once again that the politics of exclusion and disposability – traceable to apartheid policies and practice – continue unabated.

While some might be imbued with a sense of frustration, many other citizens are still waiting, hopeful that one day this government might remember them as citizens, deserving of equal rights to decent shelter and dignity enjoyed by others in our province. They still hope for change – even though their lives have been stripped of legal and political status and ascribed the status of being slaves in their own country. Thus, the IFP stands to remind this government of its constitutional mandate, to deliver decent housing and empower people with security of tenure and that the realisation thereof needs to be quick and efficient.

Speaker, I wish to reflect on the all-important issue of corruption that continues unabated within this Department. Coupled with that is the issue of more than R1 billion in irregular expenditure incurred by the Department during the 2019/20 financial year. In this regard, we echo the sentiments of the Auditor’s General’s Report, that the Department needs to strengthen its internal risk control measures and consequence management. The tough talk on corruption must be backed up by action.

The Department cites that it managed to allocate 2 570 (just 11%) from a planned target of 21 718 housing units in the 2019/20 financial year. It also aimed to transfer
7 575 title deeds to qualifying beneficiaries but reported that only 898 (just 12%) title deeds were transferred to qualifying beneficiaries during the year under review. This is simply not good enough. The people of Gauteng demand, and rightfully, deserve better.

What is most concerning, and drew most of our attention, are under-achievements in Programme 3, Housing Development. This Programme is at the core of the Department’s work and takes up the lion’s share of the overall budget. Yet, the Department has only managed to achieve a meagre two targets (that makes only 9%) out of the 23 targets it had set itself to achieve under this Programme. It is untenable that the Department can justify having spent approximately R4.98 billion (which makes 97%) of the allocated budget on this Programme, only to achieve less than 10% of the actual targets. Iphi imali?

This trend of ineptitude is also evident in all other Programmes where the Department met less than half of its set targets. It is concerning that the expenditure is not consummate with the expected performance targets. Whether it is in the issuing of title deeds, issuing of serviced stands and houses, or the implementation of the Rapid Land Release Programme, the Department’s performance has not improved. Instead, it has slowed. Unfortunately, this all occurs during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has increased the vulnerabilities of our citizens.

In conclusion, despite the pace and rate of housing delivery in the province, none of us want to see this Department fail. We, therefore, call upon the MEC to effect strong leadership, stop the own-goal-scoring, incompetence and corruption, which undermine the Department’s ability to build a better life for all residents of Gauteng. The right to decent shelter, which also affords us the dignity and freedom to fend for ourselves, is at the core of democracy and we all have a responsibility to preserve it. Therefore, the IFP remains committed to lending its support to the MEC, and his Department, in ensuring that they build inclusive housing infrastructure and transfer property assets more efficiently in a bid to empower the marginalised Gauteng citizens.

Thank you.

Contact:
Hon. Bonginkosi Dhlamini, MPL
Provincial Chairperson of the IFP Gauteng
082 565 3571