Zikalala’s DPWI has failed on its mandate to manage government buildings

Issued by Sello Seitlholo MP – DA Shadow Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure
10 Mar 2024 in News

Cases of key government buildings that are falling apart due to poor maintenance by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) are escalating to a point where it is now clear that the DPWI has failed on its mandate as the custodian of the government’s immovable assets.

From the inhospitable Telkom Towers that house the SAPS headquarters to the buildings of Parliament which succumbed to arson in 2022, DPWI’s asset management record has become a national liability.

Based on this gross dereliction of duty, the DA is calling for a full review of the DPWI’s mandate with a view to giving line departments the authority to manage their own buildings. Failure to decentralize this function will result in unnecessary loss of money as line departments look for alternative offices to work in.

The Auditor-General (AG) has long warned that the DPWI’s Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE), which acts as the custodian of government’s immovable assets, is undermining service delivery due to poor management of state properties. The AG cited the continued waste of taxpayers’ money on refurbishment and construction projects for buildings that remain unsuitable for human habitation, as one of the reasons why the PMTE was failing on its mandate.

Nowhere is this dysfunction more pronounced than the SAPS headquarters at Telkom Towers where it is reported that close to R1 billion has reportedly been spent renovating the building against a purchase price of R700 million for the building in 2015. Even after spending this inordinate amount of money on renovations, the Telkom Towers building are likely going to be evacuated due to its growing structural challenges.

Minister Sihle Zikalala’s announcement that his Department will launch an internal investigation into the mismanagement of the Telkom Towers complex is just a poor attempt to cover up PMTE’s gross incompetence in the management of state immovable assets. The state of the Telkom Towers is not a new issue as it was flagged by the AG in 2021 and was flagged again last week as a material irregularity.

Aside from the fact that money has been spent on the buildings, DPWI is still paying rent for SAPS at a number of properties that should have been vacated years ago had SAPS taken occupation of Telkom Towers.

It simply does not inspire confidence that PMTE, with its growing asset management crisis, is responsible for overseeing the maintenance of buildings for the Departments of Health, Defence, Home Affairs, Higher Education and Justice among others. Failure to take immediate action to decentralize the management of government buildings to line departments risks collapsing state capacity and compounding the already dire service delivery challenges across the government system.