Hundreds of millions budgeted to spruce up politicians’ houses, government buildings

The government is planning to spend a whopping R423m on renovating the official homes and offices of SA’s senior public office bearers.

Public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille revealed in a written reply to a parliamentary question by DA MP Tim Brauteseth that R423,741,621 has been set aside for the government’s so-called prestige projects for the 2020/21 financial year.

De Lille’s document reveals that R203m of the budgeted amount will be spent on facilities management for the Union Buildings and presidency facilities in Pretoria.

About R135m is set aside for numerous projects in the parliamentary precinct, including structural repairs to a part of the Old Assembly building, upgrading of security systems, refurbishment of ministerial offices and replacement of kitchen equipment, including construction work in kitchens.

Some of the projects in parliament have been completed while others will be completed in the next few months.

The Groote Schuur Estate in Rondebosch, Cape Town, will get a “total upgrading of its civil infrastructure and electrical installation”. De Lille said they have budgeted R48m for this, while almost R16m has been set aside for refurbishment of roads and parking at the Bryntirion presidential estate.

A further R40m will be spent on routine and sustainable maintenance and minor upgrades to residential units in the three parliamentary villages in Cape Town. Another R54m has been set aside to provide integrated facilities management services for five years in the parliamentary villages and for official residential accommodation.

De Lille explained that this was the current facilities management contract that will expire on September 30 2020.

A similar amount [R54m] is budgeted for similar integrated facilities management services for five years but this time the contract pertains to providing these integrated facilities management services for the parliamentary complex and for official office accommodation. That management contract also ends on September 30 2020. A further R26m has been set aside for a new facilities management contract that will kick in when the old one ends in September.

The residences of sessional officials in the three parliamentary villages were refurbished to the tune of R300,000. De Lille said this project has been completed.

The minister’s response shows that tens of millions more will be spent on the parliamentary precinct, including on structural repairs to the Old Assembly building area, repairing cracks, water proofing, repairs to walls and removing of shelving to the archives and to carry out external work. This will come at a cost of R15m.

The department told parliament last month that its spending focus over the next three years will be on developing and reviewing policies for the prestige accommodation portfolio in line with the ministerial handbook, improving the delivery of services to “prestige” clients with regard to the provision of both movable and immovable assets as well as meeting the protocol responsibilities for state functions.

“While it may be argued that some of this expenditure is essential maintenance, the DA believes that in a Covid-19 crisis when the health services are faltering under immense pressure and the economy is plummeting, such expenditure is incredibly irresponsible,” said Brauteseth on Wednesday.

He called for all available, non-essential expenditure to be directed towards caring for the lives and livelihoods of all South Africans, not projects concerning government installations which are only being used by a greatly reduced percentage of their occupants, especially during the lockdown and Covid-19 pandemic.

Article by Sowetan Live