Human Settlements Ombudsman appointed

Pretoria – The Department of Human Settlements has established an Ombudsman Office to deal with issues of conflict between contractors, provinces and municipalities, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu announced on Thursday.

“With the Ombudsman Office, we are setting up a structure that will mediate, work with all stakeholders to resolve disputes and cut through red tape for the best interests of the human settlements sector as a whole,” Minister Sisulu explained.

The Minister was tabling her department’s R33.4 billion Budget Vote for the 2017/2018 financial year, in Parliament, on Thursday.

She also announced that the department has completed the process of appointing a Human Settlements Ombudsman, Themba Mthethwa, who was previously the CEO in the Office of the Public Protector and Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS).

The Ombudsman’s role is to deal with all complaints that either the construction sector or the general public may have against the department or any of its entities.

The Minister said the department will advertise for the position of a Deputy Ombudsman because of the enormity of the responsibilities.

Human Settlements Development Bank

The Minister also announced that the work of the amalgamation of the various financial entities has now been completed, and the Human Settlements Development Bank, which is established, will be launched on Friday.

The Human Settlements Development Bank is being established through the consolidation of the existing human settlements Development Finance Institution (DFIs): the National Housing Finance Corporation (NHFC), National Urban Reconstruction and Housing Agency (NURCHA) and Rural Housing Loan Fund (RHLF).

Minister Sisulu said the new approach will include more responsible participatory citizens, cleaner environments and non-citizens will not be allowed to own property intended for the alleviation of poverty for citizens.

She said they have established a National Rapid Response Task Team and the intention was that there should not be an informal settlement whose conditions they are not aware of.

“We intend to enhance the capacity of this team so that, working like the census, we can employ the youth of the area to help us document the challenges of that area. Working also with our social partners, Slum Dwellers International, we would want the communities to do the enumeration of each informal settlement.

“This is a long-term project, but I’m certain with this information we will be in a better position to plan for the future. With the right technology most of our current problems would be easy to solve.”

The Minister said that the department will this year prioritise the allocation of stands where they have land and encouraged South African citizens to move towards this option, wherever it is available.

“Here, in all the land that we hold, we will ensure that services are supplied, stands cut out and encourage our people with technical support to build for themselves.

“We want to encourage the use of policy options that were created to fast-track delivery and diversify options. These include the use of innovative materials, agri-villages and employer assisted housing,” she said.

Property Practitioners Bill

Minister Sisulu, meanwhile, said the Property Practitioners Bill has been published and invited the public to engage with the bill so “we can all be clear on how we achieve the transformation of the property industry which is the backbone of our national asset base as it touches every single family’s residential property”.

Human Settlement Bill

The Minister reported that a team has been established to drive this Human Settlement Bill, which the department expects to get passed before its next budget vote.

“This is our primary bill that establishes legally the Human Settlements approach in line with our policies and the National Development Plan (NDP).

Catalytic projects

The department will during the financial year roll out 46 government led catalytic projects in nine provinces, with 14 of them allocated in Gauteng and eight in KwaZulu-Natal.

Six projects will be located in Eastern Cape, three in Free State, one in Mpumalanga, two in North West, three in Northern Cape, two in Limpopo and seven in Western Cape.

Minister Sisulu noted that the catalytic projects are the department’s new approach to build on scale and crowd in the private sector.

Budget breakdown

Of the R33.4 billion budget, R873 million will be directed towards initiatives and administration of the department, while R19.9 billion will be transferred to provinces.

An amount of R11.4 billion is availed for the eight metropolitan municipalities in the form of the Urban Settlements Development Grant. Transfers to departmental entities and related parties amounts to R1.2 billion.

– SAnews.gov.za