Officials ‘took houses meant for poor’

23 04 2008

Posted to the web on: 23 April 2008
Source: Business Day
by Nick Wilson

MORE than 30000 public servants face possible prosecution for defrauding the poor out of low-cost homes.

The Special Investigations Unit is investigating 31000 government employees, including school principals and police captains, who “corruptly or fraudulently” acquired fully subsidised houses.

Xolani Xundu, spokesman for the housing department, said the housing subsidies were meant for the “poorest of the poor” — households that earned less than R3500 a month.

But Xundu said that a total of 28715 of the public servants in question earned more than the R3500 monthly household income threshold.

A total of 34 public servants will be prosecuted today and tomorrow in Pietermaritzburg, accused of fraudulently obtaining government-subsidised houses.

Housing department director-general Itumeleng Kotsoane said much of the fraud had occurred in the late 1990s to 2000 “due to the failure of our systems to detect and verify some of the applicant’s details”.

Xundu said the department did not at the time have internal control systems which could verify salaries.

But now with the help of Persal, the government employees payment system, it was “easy to pick up information about the beneficiaries”.

“We also now use data from the South African Revenue Service, the deeds office and the home affairs department to verify that the beneficiaries do receive the salaries that they say they receive,” said Xundu.

Ben-Pierre Malherbe, head of integrated housing developer Calgro M3, welcomed the government “cracking down on these officials”.

He said that if the most needy were not provided with subsidised housing, the government would not be able to eradicate informal settlements.

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