Human Settlements celebrates another clean audit

Pretoria - The Department of Human Settlements has received yet another clean audit, making it the 17th year in a row that it has achieved the feat.

Tabling the department's annual report in Parliament on Wednesday, Director-General Thabane Zulu said the department still had more to achieve.

"While we are happy about the unqualified audit, we will ensure that the matters raised by the Auditor-General will receive attention, more particularly the matter of departmental performance management and reporting," he said.

The annual report revealed that almost 1 000 government officials were arrested and about 871 convicted for offences related to the National Subsidy Programme - a housing programme meant for the poor.

"The sentences handed down include suspended sentences and with conditions to repay subsidy amounts. Of this, 1 615 acknowledgements of debt to the value of R21.7 million were signed by civil servants who defrauded the department and/or provinces," Zulu added.

Four hundred municipal employees were also arrested during the period under review and 334 court cases were finalised.

To date, 860 acknowledgements of debt, to the value of R8.2 million, were signed by municipal employees who committed fraud relating to the National Subsidy Programme.

Zulu said the department would "vigorously pursue" those who tried to defraud the state because such acts affected the poor and those the government housing delivery programme targeted.

The Housing Development Agency had already identified more than 33 000 hectares of state land that will be evaluated for human settlements development, he added.

Zulu noted that the department still faced challenges, such as its capacity to monitor all human settlements projects in the country, and provinces' failure to prioritise and budget for the resolution of blocked projects.

"In addressing some of these challenges, we have established an implementation forum to ensure proper accountability for agreed outputs and outcomes; and required evaluations are to be conducted on key programmes, including informal settlement upgrading and social and rental housing to improve performances in funding planning and implementation," he said.

- BuaNews