Deputy Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Noxolo Kiviet says her department continues to battle with maintaining and overseeing all the immovable assets owned by government.
The department’s officials presented strategies in place aimed at optimising the use of these assets to Parliament earlier on Wednesday. But MPs expressed concern about the condition of many of these buildings.
They believe the environment for possible renters and tenants to approach government, is not conducive. The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) is overwhelmed. The upkeep of its more than 88 000 properties remains a headache.
“The amount of buildings and property we are dealing with are in tens of thousands. We can’t know what is happening with each,” says Kiviet
While the department is trying to avoid the disposal of certain properties, a policy is in place which will ensure that properties that are in surplus, and no longer financially viable or suitable for government purposes, will be disposed of. An assessment process is under way.
“Whether there are net benefits, either social, financial or other terms, whether there are secondary service obligations associated with the asset which dictates its retention, and also consider cultural, historical, environmental importance that may have been declared heritage or conservation site,” says DDG for Real Estate and Management Services Nyeleti Makhubele.
The Chair of the DPWI Committee Nolitha Ntobongwana says government needs to be innovative in how it generates revenue from these assets.
“If these properties can be maximally used, the government can also cut on leasing funds, the department is leasing buildings all over South Africa but there are buildings not being utilized. It also generates revenue from leasing out these properties that are lying there,” says Ntobongwana.
Officials say this is part of their strategy. Properties not used for service delivery purposes will be made available to the rental market.
Opportunities will be afforded to existing tenants, previous applicants and new interested investors and tenants. But MPs remain concerned about illegal occupation and the condition of buildings.
“I am very much worried because for quite a number of years, we sort of monitored these unused buildings and we’ve raised the red flags with the department. And we find that it’s either there is no monitoring of these buildings but the buildings are deteriorating at a very fast pace,” says Sharome van Schalkwyk from the ANC.
“I’m really concerned this is just another nicely titled project that’s going nowhere. I have recently been looking at some of the presentation done in 2013/2014 and we are hearing exactly the same excuses,” says Samantha Graham-Mare from the DA.
Makhubele acknowledged the task of doing a condition-assessments is long and laborious. The department aims to assess properties every five years but the process is costly.
VIDEO: Public Works battles to maintain and oversee immovable assets owned by government: