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The Special Investigations Unit has uncovered wide-scale corruption among government officials involved in the awarding of housing subsidies, Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu told MPs on Wednesday.
"The SIU embarked on a massive forensic data analytical investigation, and identified 31 259 potentially irregular housing subsidy transactions awarded to government employees," she said in the National Assembly at the start of the debate on her department's budget vote.
The unit had begun the process of prosecuting and finalising criminal cases against the corrupt officials in different provinces around the country.
"[A total of] 29 cases have already been finalised, with sentences including the payment of the value of the houses. The total amount of debt we expect to recover is R6,827 036. A cash amount of R1,103 772 has been paid back.
"The SIU will make recommendations to the department in order to curb future systematic or opportunistic abuse of the housing subsidy system. It is envisaged that 200 cases will be placed on the court roll in the new financial year," Sisulu said.
On regulations and procedures governing the allocation of state-built houses, she said these would be tightened to ensure they were occupied by poor South African citizens. There was a perception such homes were being given to foreigners.
"Allow me to assert and clarify what our policy position is: Our allocations policy provides that houses are given to indigent South African citizens who meet the qualification criteria and are on our waiting lists."
Sisulu dismissed allegations of corrupt councillors diverting housing allocations to foreigners.
Citing an Auditor-General audit, conducted last year, she said the AG had not come across a single incident where a foreign national specifically was awarded a house.
"However, as we all know, it is true that some of our houses are occupied by foreign nationals. This could only mean that our people -- the beneficiaries of these houses -- have either sold them before the period of limitation has elapsed, or are renting them out."
For this reason, "occupancy audits" would be conducted to establish if the original beneficiaries of the houses still lived in them.
"We have been very concerned about the incidence of the sale of our houses. Our laws prohibit this ... As an urgent measure, we have decided to enlist the services of the Special Investigations Unit to take action against the practice," Sisulu said.
Further, the department had introduced "compulsory adherence" to the national housing demand database, preventing any municipality from making allocations outside of this database.
"The data, together with the housing subsidy data, will be monitored by an independent audit company and will report to Parliament on an annual basis ... Our policy has been amended accordingly over the past week, and provincial workshops are currently underway to ensure compliance."
Sisulu told the House government had provided 2.6 million houses since 1994, providing shelter for 13 million people.
She also noted that funding for housing delivery was "grossly inadequate" when it came to clearing the 2,1-million-unit housing backlog, and announced her department would be seeking further state funding.
"To alleviate our present circumstances through the budget process, we will be asking to introduce a once-off injection of resources estimated at around R12-billion," she said.