/ 29 August 2020

‘Shack’ agency remains leaderless

Minister Sisulu Inspects Temporary Residential Units At Mamelodi Hostel
Spread out: The Housing Development Agency built temporary residential units at the Mamelodi Hostels to reduce density, but there have been complaints of poor quality. (Photo by Gallo Images/Alet Pretorius)

The Housing Development Agency (HDA) — responsible for the government’s R4.6-billion informal settlement de-densification programme launched in response to the Covid-19 outbreak — will remain under acting leadership for at least another six months.

This after Lindiwe Sisulu, the human settlements, water and sanitation minister, under whose control the historically troubled agency falls, rejected its interim board’s choices for a chief executive officer last month.

It is also without a permanent chief financial officer (CFO) after the process of selecting a replacement for a seconded official who had acted in the job was abandoned. 

Instead, Sisulu appointed an acting CFO for 12 months, a move that may contravene treasury regulations governing the operating of state entities.

The HDA implements the human settlements de-densification programme and aims to build thousands of temporary residential units (TRUs) on 27 parcels of land around the country in a bid to ease overcrowding in South Africa’s informal settlements. 

The agency, one of several housing entities falling under Sisulu’s control, works with municipalities to deliver the Covid-19 housing response, which has been centralised under the department.

However, the TRUs it has delivered so far in several areas, including the Mamelodi Hostel in Pretoria and the Talana Hostel in Tzaneen, Limpopo, has come under fire over poor quality workmanship and inflated prices.

The 40 tin shelters at Talana, which cost R64 000 each, are the subject of an investigation by the department of human settlements, water and sanitation and by the National Home Builders Registration Council, which was appointed to probe the R2.5-million project.

Opposition parties and a number of civil society organisations have questioned the efficiency of the programme, and the HDA, whose interim board was appointed by Sisulu in November 2019.

According to correspondence between Sisulu and the HDA board, which the Mail & Guardian has seen, the minister in July rejected the board’s choice of chief executive officer.

On July 27, Sisulu wrote that she had received the board’s submission as to its choices for chief executive.

“The candidates presented in the report do not meet my vision with regard to my expectations of the HDA after many challenges it has faced,’’ she said.

Sisulu said that the acting chief executive, Mikki Xayiya, should continue in the post for another six months “while I continue to apply my mind to the next step”.

Xayiya is a former Mvelaphanda Group chief executive. It is under Xayiya’s leadership that the HDA has been delivering overpriced and allegedly poor quality tin houses to the poorest.  

In May, after the secondment of acting CFO Sindisa Nxusani from the National Housing Finance Corporation ended, the interim board began a process of recruiting a new CFO.

However, the process was abandoned because of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last month, Sisulu wrote to the HDA acting chairperson Monnapula Motlogelwa saying that because of the essential nature of the post, another acting appointment needed to be made.

Sisulu then appointed Khomotso Brian Mosehla as acting CFO for 12 months, saying he was a chartered accountant with vast experience.

“I have no doubt that he will add value to the HDA,” Sisulu said.

Yet the Public Service Act and the Public Service Regulations state that an employee can only act in a position for a maximum of six uninterrupted months. 

As Xayiya was seconded by Sisulu from the board he cannot act for a period exceeding 12 months, unless due to operational reasons the minister for the public service and administration determines otherwise.

Mosehla was a black economic empowerment partner in the controversial Cash Paymaster Services deal to pay social grants on behalf of the South African Social Services Agency and allegedly pocketed R83-million on the deal. 

Sisulu has also been at legal odds with several Water Boards. On Thursday, the Pietermaritzburg high court turned down an application by members of the Umgeni Water Board for an urgent interdict against Sisulu’s decision to dissolve the board and appoint an interim one.