Human Settlements asks SIU to probe its entities

Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi has asked the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to look into a slew of allegations of corruption and illegal activity in the department’s entities. 

Kubayi, speaking at a media briefing on Friday — during which she announced the cabinet had approved the appointment of 11 new National Housing Finance Corporation Ltd board members — said she had held discussions with SIU head Andy Mothibi regarding a preliminary investigation.

Kubayi said boards had been appointed for the Human Settlements Development Agency (HDA), the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA), the Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS), the National Home Builders Registration Council and the Property Practitioner Regulatory Authority (PPRA).

“Board appointments have been approved by cabinet and they will formally be appointed for a period of three years at the National Housing Finance Corporation AGM on Tuesday next week,” Kubayi said.

The board members include Luthando Vutula (chairperson), Thembinkosi Bonakele, Philisiwe Mthethwa, Velile Dube, Aeeysha Seedat, Tshepiso Kobile, Paul Heeger, Thulani Mabaso, Kadi Palesa, Thembisile Chiliza and Setati Bolimpopo.  

Kubayi said she was aware that the new appointments would not automatically bring stability to the entities and most still had multiple vacancies, including chief executive and chief financial officer posts, at executive level.

“Some do not have the necessary technical skills to execute their mandate and yet others have organisational structures that are wholly unsuitable for the execution of their mandate. I have mandated the boards of these entities to make finding solutions to these challenges their number one priority,” Kubayi said.

She said that because of long periods of poor leadership and instability a “destructive culture” had germinated in some entities.

“I am speaking of the culture of rumour mongering, fictitious grievances, media leaks and unsubstantiated and frivolous whistle-blowing that has taken root. I am a firm believer that we must deal decisively with wrongdoing and corruption, however, channels for exposing such should not be abused for agendas that have nothing to do with fighting wrongdoing and corruption.” 

She said that since arriving in the portfolio she had been “bombarded with allegations and counter allegations of corruption” that had been leaked to the media.

“What is common about these allegations is that no evidence is ever adduced to support them and yet I spend hours responding to media enquiries about these allegations. The stabilisation effort has also been made difficult by the existence of well-entrenched patronage and corruption networks that are putting up a huge fight against the stabilisation effort. I have therefore decided that I will approach the Special Investigating Unit to conduct an investigation in all our entities where there are claims of wrongdoing and corruption.” 

Kubayi said she had already approached Mothibi to prepare a preliminary report for submission to President Cyril Ramaphosa to decide whether a full investigation was necessary.

“We will provide them with some of the documents we have in the entirety of the portfolio. I have started engaging with advocate Mothibi to do a preliminary assessment to put together a report and submit it to the president for a proclamation,” Kubayi said.

“Some of the documents and information we have received do not have any supporting evidence and we don’t have capacity to determine ‘this is correct, this is right, this is evidence that is valued or not,’ so I am encouraging those South Africans, those employees that have information to provide information to the SIU so we can get it over and done with and protect the integrity of the funds and the state,” Kubayi said.

Human Settlements director general Mbulelo Tshangana said he was confident the new board appointments included “quality people” with relevant professional skills in the financial and built environment sectors.

Kubayi said officials from her department had visited all nine provinces to analyse the problems citizens were facing and had resolved to progress with blocked projects and increase the pace of provision of title deeds to rightful property owners, prioritising the pre-1994 period. 

She said her department aimed to eliminate asbestos roofs and dilapidated mud houses as well as complete the digitisation of the housing beneficiary list to make it “more reliable, transparent, easily accessible and avoid fraud and corruption”.  

Annual social housing qualifying criteria and financial limits would also be adjusted from 1 April. Households earning from R1 850 to R22 000 gross monthly income may now qualify for social housing as opposed to the previous qualification criteria for household income from R1 500 to R15 000.

Kubayo also announced that from 1 April the name of the Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP) for first-time home buyers would change to Help me Buy a House.

“So far, the programme has not achieved the intended policy objectives for a number of reasons. With effect from the 2022-23 financial year, FLISP will also extend to non-mortgage housing finance facilities,” she said.

The programme may now be used in combination with housing loans granted or guaranteed by a pension and provident fund, unsecured housing loans from any registered lender, cooperative- or community-based savings scheme or personal savings.

“The Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) and NHFC have negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement to partner on the delivery of FLISP, which I hope will be signed soon,” Kubayi said.

Housing loans supported by employer-based schemes such as the Government Employees Housing Scheme or private sector Employer Assisted Housing Schemes (EAHS) and loans supported by Permission-to-Occupy (PTOs) issued by the government or a recognised traditional authority can also be used.

Housing subsidies will also be increase from April 1 for the first time since 2018 as follows:

· Breaking New Ground services and top structure:  R196 887

· House for persons with disabilities: R209 071

· Military veterans house: R240 607

· Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme: R147 045

· Social housing: R187 395

“We believe that with these amendments, we will be able to accelerate housing delivery and avoid projects being abandoned. We call upon our implementing agents including contractors and developers to deliver quality work, on time and within budget,” Kubayi said.

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