9 March 2009

Botswana: Ministerial Houses to Cost P80 Million

Ministerial houses under construction are based on the same building plan for judges' houses in Lobatse, after President Ian Khama condemned a more extravagant plan last year, Monitor has learnt.

Government is pouring P80 million into the construction of 16 houses - P30 million for the first eight houses from the previous financial year - and the balance (P50 million) from the new financial year, which starts next month.

According to the initial site plan, each minister's house was to cost more than P5 million.

However, when he was still vice president and supervisor of government ministries and projects, Khama is said to have condemned the project as extravagant. He then advised that the same housing plan for the judges in Lobatse be used to build the ministerial houses.

The initial plan for the ministerial houses - in line with global trends - had more sophisticated features, including two lounges, stylish swimming pools, and bar facilities.

Dikgakgamatso Seretse, then minister of Lands and Housing and in charge of the ministerial houses project, over the weekend confirmed to Monitor that the architects' house plans had been changed. '

"They had to be modified because HE, then the vice president, felt they would be too costly at about P5 million a house. He did advise that we could adopt the same plan for the judges' houses in Lobatse, which we did, with some slight modifications here and there," he said.

Seretse, now the Minister for Defence, Justice and Security however feels that there is urgent need for ministers' accommodation as the current houses, built in the 60s, are in bad shape. Seretse says he does not stay in the ministerial houses because of their poor state. " In any case the current houses are not even enough for all of us members of the Cabinet. But if you ask me about my experiences I will say, yes, there is definitely urgent need for accommodation for the ministers," he said.

Another Cabinet minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, told Monitor on Saturday that she had to vacate her house because it "leaks heavily" during rainy season. " I do not even stay there at all; they (houses) are dangerous," she said in a telephone interview.

The ministerial house project is being undertaken by the Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) and started last year with eight houses at a cost of P30 million in Gaborone. Lands minister Nonofo Molefhi says the project is 29 percent complete. Justifying the expenditure, Molefhi last week told Parliament that the current ministerial houses were built in the late 60s and early 70s and have proved uneconomic to maintain.

For the 2009/10 financial year, the ministerial housing project is being allocated another P50 million. The funds are required for the completion of the eight ongoing ministerial houses during the 2009/10 financial year and construction of eight new houses.

Minister Molefhi says eight plots have already been identified and submitted to BHC to start the tendering process.

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