Temporary housing project to alleviate congestion in hostels has major defects: public protector

The 40 units are not safe and pose health and safety hazards

15 March 2021 - 13:09
Some of the 40 shacks unveiled by Limpopo premier Stan Mathabatha at Talana Hostel in Tzaneen. They have been found to have major structural defects.
Some of the 40 shacks unveiled by Limpopo premier Stan Mathabatha at Talana Hostel in Tzaneen. They have been found to have major structural defects.
Image: PETER RAMOTHWALA

A temporary tin shack housing project meant to alleviate congestion in hostels and in an informal settlement in Tzaneen, Limpopo, and built at a cost of more than R2.5m, was found by the public protector to have major structural and non-structural defects.

A report by the acting public protector said the defects were mainly due to design deficiencies, poor construction practice, inadequate assembly and non-compliance with processes regarding certification of alternative building technologies.

“The major deficiency is the absence of foundations and structural elements in all [units]. The [units] are not safe and pose a public health and safety hazard to inhabitants and other persons in their vicinity. The workmanship is generally poor and does not meet the level of accuracy required in building construction,” the report said.

It added that four officials, including the project manager at the Housing Development Agency (HDA) in Limpopo and the company director, had been arrested by the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit was also investigating the project.

The government spent more than R2.5m building 40 tin shacks in Limpopo.

There was a public outcry last August after Limpopo premier Stan Mathabatha unveiled the settlement. The brown and blue shelters were made from zinc and came at a cost of R64,000 each.

The Limpopo department of co-operative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs appointed the HDA as the implementing agent for the project following an assessment of the residential situation at Talana Hostel in Tzaneen, where it was evident the settlement was highly congested and posed a risk of spreading Covid-19.

The HDA appointed the contractor Aventino Group CC (Aventino) through its procurement processes to carry out the construction work.

“Specifications for the construction of the units were set out in the scope of work provided in the amended terms of reference for the appointment of a service provider to construct. A written contract was entered into between the HDA and Aventino,” said the report.

It said the company constructed 40 units at Talana Hostel in Tzaneen at a cost of R2,577,640.

The report showed that after completion of the 40 units, the HDA paid Aventino R2,577,640.

“The money was paid in two tranches of R1,095,497 on July 22 2020 and R1,482,143 on July 24 2020, as reflected in the bank records of Aventino.”

The report stated that after the public outcry following the official handover of the units, the human settlements department requested the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) to conduct an investigation.

The report said the Hawks had arrested the director of Aventino and the HDA project manager involved in awarding of the tender. “Both were charged with fraud relating to the awarding of the tender.” 

Hawks spokesperson Capt Matimba Maluleke confirmed the arrest of the four and the company director.

Department spokesperson Motupa Selomo referred TimesLIVE to the HDA.

In Mamelodi, Tshwane, about 200 makeshift homes — part of the government’s temporary residential unit (TRU) programme — are deserted. Builders left the site at the beginning of December last year and have not returned, saying the R40m paid to them had been used.

Their contracts were to erect 1,000 units for R64m.

The temporary structures are built with corrugated iron sheets. Some have been partially constructed but are without roofs. Others are just frames. None have electricity, water or ablution facilities.

The TRU programme was set up last year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is aimed at communities living in high-density accommodation  in a bid to enable social distancing, but has so far failed, with a number of projects abandoned by contractors due to contractual disputes.

The HDA’s response will be added when it is received.

TimesLIVE


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