Public Works To Embark On New Programme

Pretoria - The Department of Public Works is set to embark on an ambitious programme that will see it invest in repairs and maintenance of government buildings, which will result in huge savings for the state.

The programme, announced by Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde on Wednesday during her inaugural Budget Vote in Parliament, will be undertaken by the department in three years.

"Investment in repair and maintenance, continuous maintenance and construction of new government buildings could generate major savings for the state ... This will also include ensuring the relocation of national departments to state owned buildings where it is feasible to do so," said Mahlangu-Nkabinde.

She noted that the leasing portfolio was costing the state a lot of money, where in the past year alone, her department spent billions in leases and functional accommodation for client departments.

"We acknowledge that our lease portfolio will take a while to reduce but in the interim, the department will continue to find ways to structure its current leases such that the socio-economic goals of government are realised including black, women and youth economic empowerment," said the minister.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde said the department would invoke the National Infrastructure Maintenance Strategy and the National Contractor Development Programme to target investment in this sector, a move that would also benefit small and emerging contractors.

With regards to the rehabilitation of unused as well as underutilised public buildings, the department will in collaboration with the Department of Higher Education, convert these buildings to provide affordable student accommodation where it is possible.

The upgrading and refurbishment of the HG De Witt building in Tshwane will result in accommodation for approximately 180 students, while the upgrading and refurbishment of Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein will result in accommodation for about 700 students.

"Through this intervention, the department is looking at alleviating the problem of lack of decent student accommodation while creating job opportunities," explained the minister.

The department will also rehabilitate selected military bases, while it is also paying attention to the deteriorating state of the infrastructure at harbours, starting in Cape Town.

Turning the focus to accommodation needs of the South African Police Service, Mahlangu-Nkabinde said in the year under review, these will be extensive given the need to fast-track the goal of creating "a safe and secure South African society."

She said infrastructure projects were solid proof of government's commitment to service delivery.

"Furthermore, and with respect to the SAPS portfolio, I wish to announce that in the current financial year, the department will complete the first ever state-of-the-art Forensic Laboratory for SAPS in Cape Town," said the minister.

The department will also launch a campaign to encourage South Africans to reclaim lost or missing immovable assets.

"We will soon launch the Amnesty Campaign aptly named 'Operation Bring Back' in order to encourage South Africans to reclaim lost and/or missing immovable assets. These properties, we believe, were insincerely wrested from the state in the turbulent transitional period following the demise of apartheid and were being unlawfully occupied.

"The significance of the state-owned real estate as a major revenue generator for government cannot be over-emphasised," said Mahlangu-Nkabinde.

She said once recovered, the properties will either enhance the department's disposal programme or contribute positively to the Inner City Regeneration programme in revitalising the economy.

- BuaNews