/ 26 November 2007

Sell the houses and heal the sick, DA advises

The Gauteng health department should sell off its 66 houses and plough the proceeds into providing better healthcare, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Monday.

This comes after Gauteng health minister Brian Hlongwa revealed that his department is conducting an audit of its houses.

It cannot run a property company — it is a health department, said DA Gauteng health spokesperson Jack Bloom.

He has discovered the existence of the houses over a number of years — and that some are being let at nominal rentals, while others are in arrears on their rates and taxes, he said.

In written questions, Bloom asked Hlongwa how many houses the department owned, why it owned them and where they were. He inquired about the assessed value of each house, the rental paid for each, and the reason any were unoccupied.

He also queried whether the municipal payments were up to date and, if not, the amounts owed and why they were outstanding, and whether a review was planned of the need to retain the houses.

”He ducked just about all my questions and gave me a two-line response,” Bloom said.

In his reply, Hlongwa said the audit is conducted in accordance with the Government Immovable Asset Management Act. ”Once this audit is complete, a determination as to whether these houses will be retained or disposed of in accordance with relevant legislation will be made,” he said.

Bloom claimed the department has properties ”all over the place”.

”They don’t know what they own,” he said. The audit is ”long overdue”.

By his estimate, the department could raise more than R50-million from the sale of the houses — many of which need expensive repairs.

”Why has it taken so long to take a decision on these properties?” he asked. ”There are also other land holdings that should be put up for sale, so that the department can get extra income, as well as better focus on its core business of patient care.” — Sapa