Government has R7.4bn in vacant properties across South Africa

The department of public works has a portfolio of vacant properties with an estimated value at R7.4bn across the country.

The reasons for the vacancies, public works minister Thulas Nxesi said in written reply to a parliamentary question by DA MP Malcolm Figg, were that residential properties were no longer required by clients of the department; a lack of demand for the utilisation of specific properties either by government or the private sector; and a lack of funds by the department to rebuild, refurbish or develop the property for utilisation.

Replying to another of Figg’s questions, Nxesi revealed that ministers owed R1.2m in outstanding rental on their ministerial residences. The monthly rental cost for ministerial residences ranged between R988.90 and R1,200.82.

“In our analysis of how the ministers ended up being in arrears, we found that there were a number of systemic flaws.

The building up of arrears is largely not through faults of or negligence by the ministers. It would therefore be unfair to name which ministers are in arrears, save to mention that the problem is being addressed with the departments concerned.

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“The challenge with collecting rental income for ministerial residences is a systemic one. Once ministerial residences have been allocated, the department of public works submits the documents indicating the amounts payable monthly to the client departments, whose responsibility it is to action the stop orders from ministers and deputy ministers’ monthly income,” Nxesi said.

“Despite numerous reminders, some departments fail to action the stop orders leading to escalating debt. In the past, I have engaged with members of the executive on the debt owed to the department and this was done with relative success.

“However, the challenge persists. Ministers are always willing to co-operate in terms of paying their monthly rentals. The challenge we must resolve is a systemic one to ensure that the monthly rentals are collected without fail on an ongoing basis,”

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