Mail&Guardian Online

September 22, 2011

The days of the department of public works being run like a “cash cow” are over, minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde said in Sandton on Thursday. 

Contracts are given to people who don’t even have a clue what they are supposed to do,” she told delegates at the Engineering Council of South Africa’s summit.

There were roads and bridges falling apart around the country, and of the 41 departmental contracts reviewed by the Special Investigating Unit, all were found to be non-compliant.

It’s a shame. I am paying for buildings that are falling apart. Many are not being used, or maintained. They are just empty.”

Mahlangu-Nkabinde took office on October 31 last year, succeeding Jeff Doidge.

She said: “When I got into public works, I discovered it was just a cash cow.”

In two separate reports this year, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela held her and national police commissioner Bheki Cele responsible for a R500-million and R1.1-billion lease agreement with businessman Roux Shabangu for police office space in Pretoria and Durban.

She found the leases were concluded in an unlawful and improper way. Madonsela criticised the department for going ahead with the deals, in spite of legal opinion to the contrary and an earlier agreement that this would not happen until the public protector had completed her investigation.

Without referring to the lease controversy, Mahlangu-Nkabinde said: “We have created a lot of millionaires who do not care what happens to this country.

“I am interfering in areas where previous people were comfortable, but I am not in it for myself, I am in it for the country and for the years to come.

I want to remain an unpopular minister, because I will not give a ‘comrade’, who has no clue what he is doing, government projects.”

In the past weeks, her department announced it had already found R3-billion worth of tender irregularities in response to recommendations made by the protector…Read more.