IOL: R58m housing scandal rocks Gauteng

IOL: R58m housing scandal rocks Gauteng

The Gauteng provincial government is considering taking legal action against a construction consortium following the disclosure that, three years after a R58-million tender was awarded, not a single RDP house has been built. The Star has learnt that, in 2004, Bahlodi Consortium was awarded the contract to revitalise Evaton township, south of Johannesburg, where 90 percent of the population earns less than R3 500 a month.Under the plan, RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) houses were to be built, with water and sanitation for the township's 200 000 residents, along with new roads and pavements, as part of the upgrading of infrastructure.
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A sum of R58-million was awarded to what was then called the Evaton Urban Renewal Project.
'I just cross the road and dump it in the veld'Three years later, however, it transpires that there is little to show for the millions of rands of public money - while the housing list has swollen to 14 000. Today, some of the residents are still using the bucket system, while others have to make do with pit-latrines, despite promises from provincial and national government for many years to eradicate these hazardous systems. Staff at nearby Evaton municipal offices have running water and modern sewerage. Residents living on the east side of Evaton, and who still use buckets, claim there have been no collections since 1975, when the phasing out of the system began. Sello John Makhale shares his dilapidated decades-old house, which he inherited from his parents, with two other people.
He dumps his buckets on a piece of open veld nearby where cattle and sheep graze. "I've used the bucket ever since I got the house from my parents in 1969. We still do not have electricity and we no longer have people collecting our buckets," he said. "So I just cross the road and dump it in the veld." Bethuel Letswalo lives nearby in a crumbling eight-room house shared by four families. There is no electricity or running water. The gable of the single-storey dwelling is caving in, posing a serious threat to its inhabitants. This is compounded by the lack of proper sewerage and drainage. Letswalo said that when the then Sebokeng Town Council stopped collecting buckets all those years ago, he and his fellow tenants decided to close their toilet and dig a pit latrine nearby. They are still using the ad-hoc structure, despite sewerage pipes lying underground that have never been linked to toilets. Three years ago, officials from the Evaton Urban Renewal Project placed the names of the occupants on a housing list. However, no houses have been constructed.When asked why this situation was allowed to develop, Dumisa Qupe, a councillor for the Emfuleni Local Municipality, said the problem was one for the housing department, which awarded the contract to Bahlodi Consortium. While lack of land exacerbated the problem, with large swathes of the area in private hands, it appeared the consortium had provided more human development than financial management. "The construction company trained community liaison officers and members of the Evaton Youth Development Forum. About 40 youths were trained in construction and 20 in organic gardening, while 15 were trained in hydroponic gardening, although six dropped out." While he was unable to say how much money the company had spent since 2004, he confirmed that no houses had been built. According to Victor Moreriane, spokesperson for Housing MEC Nomvula Mokonyane, the Bahlodi contract was terminated in the past few days because it failed to provide "value for their money" in houses, roads, clinics, parks and rejuvenated community centres, as well as sewerage and draining systems. The crisis was brought to light when Bahlodi applied to the department of housing for additional funding of R50-million last month. Mokonyane's team then became aware that the original R58-million had not been spent in accordance with the original plan. "Bahlodi's mandate was to manage and ensure delivery of Evaton business plans on behalf of the department," Moreriane said.According to the brief, the consortium was "to oversee, monitor and regulate performance of lead consultancies, functional teams and contractors involved in the implementation"."A master plan has been drafted by the department. What we need now is high-impact development that prioritises infrastructure upgrading, roads and transport networks, housing and local economic development," said Moreriane, The master plan dwarfs the original urban renewal programme with ambitious integrated planning to transform the area into "an active economic node offering services and facilities, such as taxi ranks, a shopping centre, mixed housing, a town square, sports facilities, an art school, municipal offices and a chapel". This latest three-year plan is budgeted at R900-million.Moreriane said they had set up a monitoring and evaluating unit as well as a risk management unit to oversee the programme.Consortium spokesperson Loretta King refused to comment.
This article was originally published on page 1 of The Star on March 11, 2007

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