The Department of Housing briefed the Committee on the Annual Report for 2007/08. It was noted that during this financial year the Department had undergone a restructuring process, and the Department’s operations were split into four programmes. Each of those programmes was described, both in terms of their scope and the achievements during the year. An impact assessment had been developed to try to ensure that beneficiaries of housing projects retained their houses. The Department had carried out some research work as well. Most of the budget was directed towards Housing Development Funding. There had been unforeseen expenditure of R105 million, relating to the Khutsong Township relocation, and R250 000 had been transferred to Government Communication and Information Systems for the second economy interventions mass communication campaign. 96% of the total allocation had been spent, with R23 million remaining unspent, due to savings on personnel and personnel-related costs resulting from vacancies, the non implementation of the Councillor Training programme, and items that were ordered in the financial year but only invoiced in the next financial year. Some provinces had part of their Conditional grant funding retained as a result of under performance. The Social Housing Agency had not yet been established.
Members were pleased to hear of the unqualified audit report, but requested the outcome of the audits on housing performance on the provinces, the outcome of some of the disciplinary procedures taken for misconduct, whether the Department was facing capacity constraints and what action had been taken in regard to corruption. The successes of the human settlement programme were interrogated, as also the numbers of units built, and whether this figure included partially completed and stalled units. Several Members commented that they did not feel that the Department was keeping the Committee well enough informed, in respect of the pilot project results, the information campaigns and the figures, and the Housing Code and policies. They also asked whether the government subsidies were only to be used for individuals, or whether they could be incorporated into a programme to prevent homes being attached for non payment, whether there were reports to assess the impact of Departmental policies, the housing and occupancy audit results, whether residents whose guardians had died were now being assisted, what had been decided about veterans, and whether there would be any interventions to try to hold municipalities responsible for failure to monitor housing projects correctly, what was the scope of the Memorandum of Agreement in relation to land around railways, and the need to see how all the Departmental policies were translated into housing units.
Department of Housing (DOH) Annual Report 2007/08: Briefing
Mr Itumeleng Kotsoane, Director General, Department of Housing, apologised to the Committee that the Members were not presented with the Annual Report prior to the meeting.
Mr Joseph Leshabane, Chief of Operations, Department of Housing, presented the report to the Committee. He drew the attention of the Committee to the fact that a restructuring process of the Department was carried out during the period under review and the Department’s operations were split into four programmes, which was also the way the presentation had been structured.
He indicated that Programme 1 covered strategic leadership, administrative and management support services. He indicated further that it was divided into various sub-programmes as listed in the presentation, and covered matters such as international relations, housing institutions, management and communication services. The various achievements of this programme were listed (see attached presentation for details).
The purpose of Programme 2 was to develop and promote sustainable human settlement and housing policies, supported by a responsible research agenda. He stated that a major achievement of this programme was the revision of the housing code alongside other achievements, which were fully listed in the presentation. On the monitoring and evaluation front, he stated that an impact assessment was developed to ensure that beneficiaries of housing projects retained their houses. The completed research projects were also listed (see attached presentation).
Mr Leshabane stated that the purpose of Programme 3 was to provide implementation and delivery support for housing and human settlement programmes. The six sub-programmes under this programme were set out, and the achievements of this programme were also highlighted in the presentation.
The purpose of Programme 4 was the funding of national housing and human settlement programmes in terms of the Housing Act. He mentioned the achievements of this programme.
Mr Leshabane then referred the Committee to the financial performance and budget overview. He stated that the bulk of the budget had been in respect of the Housing Development Funding, at 96.1%. There had been unforeseen expenditure of R105 million. This had been provided for the Khutsong Township in North West, for relocation of the township. In addition an amount of R250 000 had been transferred to Government Communication and Information Systems for the second economy interventions mass communication campaign. In total, there had been spending of 96% of the total allocation. R23 million remained unspent, due to savings on personnel and personnel-related costs, as a result of vacancies. R2.5 million was attributed to a payment for implementation of the Councillor training programme, which was rejected on Safety Net. Further underspending on goods and services was due to items ordered, but only delivered after the end of the financial year. There was also a saving of R193 million on the Conditional Grant, with some funding being retained from under performing provinces. The Social Housing Agency had not yet been established.
Mr Leshabane then gave a breakdown of the expenditure of the four programmes. He noted that the Department had received an unqualified audit report, and touched on the matters of emphasis. He concluded by referring the Committee to an additional page added to the presentation, which set out the housing delivery of the Department.
Mr A Steyn (DA) congratulated the Department on its unqualified audit, but requested the outcome of the audits, if any, carried out on the nine provinces in relation to their housing performance.
Mr Leshabane answered that there was currently an initiative that consisted of a steering committee to liaise between the Department and all the provinces, as there were anomalous cases in all provinces. He indicated that these anomalies were under review by the Special Investigating Unit, (SIU) and several cases had been taken to court. He said the officials who had been found guilty of fraudulent practices were asked to pay back the government housing subsidies fraudulently received and were also facing disciplinary panels.
Mr Steyn wanted to know if the money paid back by the officials found guilty of misconduct was the exact amount of the fraudulently-acquired subsidy, or whether the repayment take into account the appreciation of the value of the houses.
Mr Kotsoane responded that this was a task of the Special Investigating Unit and most of these repayments were in terms of Court judgments which had to be enforced.
Mr G Schneeman (ANC) referred to the achievements listed in the presentation under Programme 1, and on page 47 of the Annual Report. He wanted to know both the capacity constraints in terms of staffing faced by the Department and the kinds of actions that had been taken to ensure zero tolerance on corruption.
The Chairperson also emphasised the need to get an answer in respect of anti-corruption measures.
Mr Leshabane responded that though the volume of work by the Department was enormous, the report reflected on page 47 referred to the growth in the volume of work, and the Department was not understaffed.
Mr Steyn asked what successes were being recorded in terms of the human settlement programme.
Mr Leshabane responded that the report on page 48 of the Annual Report did not incorporate houses in previously designated black areas because research could not be implemented in these areas and the houses could not be valued.
Mr Steyn enquired as to the available promotional materials that were being used by the Department and expressed distaste for the lack of communication by the Department to the Committee, which impeded the Members’ relations with their constituencies.
Mr Kotsoane responded that advertising programmes were being run through both the BNG TV series and radio stations. He indicated that he would happy to provide Committee Members with these promotional materials.
Mr Schneeman wanted to know if the Department was confident that it had the necessary tools to fight corruption.
Mr Kotsoane responded that it had limited the possibilities of corrupt activities.
A Member wanted to know if there was any initiative where government subsidies could be used to offset the balance of some outstanding bonds on houses to prevent homes being taken away by the banks.
The DG responded that the subsidy programme was intended to target indigents and such an initiative as mentioned by the member was not possible under the scheme.
Mr Schneeman asked a question around the vacancy rate, as mentioned in pages 181 to 182 of the Annual Report. He wanted to know the impact of that vacancy rate on the Department and also wanted to know what steps were being taken to reduce the turnover rate of critical occupations in the Department.
Mr Kotsoane responded that it must be borne in mind that the report covered the period of the restructuring process of the Department. During that period, some disgruntled staff had resigned. However, the process had been finalised now and the Department was in the process of filling up vacant posts, while the priority posts had already been filled.
Mr Steyn inquired, in regard to Programme 2, if there was a bi-annual report to assess the impact of policies of the Department.
Mr M Maphisa, Deputy Director General, Policy & Research, DOH, responded that there was an impact assessment to monitor various methodologies to be done bi-annually and a framework for the mechanism had been approved.
Mr Steyn also wanted to know the effect of the housing expenditure on page 78 of the Annual Report.
Mr Leshabane responded that a housing and occupancy audit was conducted in some provinces and the audit was used as a benchmark for a way forward. He also indicated that the audit was inclusive of counting occupants of each house, in addition to recording the state of each house.
Mr Steyn enquired whether those affected by the death of their guardians would soon be benefiting from the policies of the Department.
Mr Maphisa responded that this was an initiative from the enhancement of the housing code, which still required final approval, but the support of the Department of Social Development had been enlisted and a proposal for institutionalised care had been proposed
Mr Steyn then asked if the quarterly report on performance of the National Pilot Projects could be accessed.
Mr Schneeman enquired, in respect of the monitoring and evaluation parts of the presentation, where the Department was in terms of the pilot project.
The Chairperson agreed that there were many lessons to be learnt from pilot projects, but if there were no reports then the lessons could not shape the way forward.
Mr Kotsoane responded that the pilot projects were in various stages of development and the Department was implementing lessons that were being learnt.
Mr Z Mkhize (ANC) wanted to know if it was possible to hold municipalities responsible for failure to monitor housing projects properly. He noted that it was quite difficult for Members to explain failures of service delivery to their constituencies.
Mr Kotsoane responded that the concerns raised by Mr Mkhize were genuine, but must be understood in context. He stated that the branch implementation support tasked Departmental officials to work in provinces to make sure that projects were being implemented. He stated further that a housing demand database was being developed and the aim was to list all South Africans who needed houses. This would be centrally managed but would be accessible to provinces and municipalities.
Mr Mkhize wanted clarity about page 35 of the Annual Report, regarding veterans of the South African National Defence Forces (SANDF).
Mr Kotsoane responded that discussions around the fate of veterans had been going on for a while and the Department was working with the Association of Veterans and the SANDF. He stated that many veterans who were not in the system had been identified and were being assisted by the provinces.
The Chairperson demanded that the Committee needed to see the Housing Code and also wanted the involvement of the Committee in the Department’s research.
Mr Schneeman also suggested the provision of a file by the Department to all members of the Committee incorporating all the Departmental policies.
Mr Kotsoane apologised to the Committee for the lack of communication from the Department. He informed the Committee that he could only furnish a draft of the Housing Code because the Code had not been approved.
The Chairperson commented, in regard to Programme 3, that when the Committee paid a visit to Mpumalanga, they saw many projects that had been approved but had not been implemented.
Mr Schneeman referred to the programme implementation support sub-heading of the presentation and wanted to know the number of housing units that remained blocked.
Mr Leshabane responded that projects were blocked for several reasons and it was necessary, in order to open up the blockage, to deal with the reasons for it. He cited the ability of the Department to pick up on problems before they occurred through the establishment of an Inspectorate which would allow for detection of a possible block before it affected a project.
Mr Schneeman also wanted to know whether the memorandum of understanding (MOU) referred to under the stakeholder management notes for Programme 3 meant that the Department acquired land for building accommodation around railways.
Mr Leshabane responded that the MOU did not relate to unoccupied vacant land but rather to conversions that opened a path for housing development.
Mr Steyn asked if, in the figure given of 248 000 completed units, the 47 000 units under construction were included.
Mr Kotsoane stated that the question could not be answered exactly in these terms. The matter was quite complicated as different housing units fell under different phases.
Mr Steyn said that he had a problem with the inability to give an exact answer. He noted that if projects were close to completion, but if 96% of the budget was being spent on almost-completed projects, this raised concerns. He asked if there were any blocked projects in these figures.
Mr Kotsoane responded that they were not significant numbers.
The Chairperson commented that Members wanted to see how all the policies of the Department translated into housing units. Members were seeing time and time again how service delivery was not being fulfilled.
Mr Steyn wanted clarification on the activities listed on page 164 of the Annual Report.
Mr Leshabane responded that when the European Union funded programme came to an end, the money reverted back to the European Union.
Mr Steyn was concerned that the schedules for attendance at audit committee meetings on page 103 of the Annual Report indicated that only the Chairperson attended some of the meetings.
Mr Leshabane responded that the attendance by one member might differ from the meetings attended by another member. The figures did not mean the Chairperson was the sole member at any particular meeting.
Mr Mkhize wanted to know where in the North West the residents of Khutsong had been relocated and how many residents were relocated.
Mr Leshabane responded that the relocation was only five kilometres from the original location, and it was only necessary because geological conditions permitted the settlement.
Mr Mkhize also wanted to know if the generator referred to in the presentation had arrived and how much it had cost.
Ms Y Mbane, Deputy Director General: Corporate Services, DOH, responded that the generator had arrived and it cost R1.5million.
Mr Steyn wanted to know if any major losses were recorded in the assets of the Department,
Mr Leshabane responded that the financial statements on page 105, 118 and 139 to 140 of the Annual Report indicated that there were no substantial losses.
The meeting was adjourned.
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