The Congress of South African Trade Unions is shocked at the answer given in the National Assembly on 14 December 2012 by Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, in response to an MP's question about the money spent on renovations to the residential homes of ministers and deputy ministers in the 2012-12 financial year.
He revealed that a total of R65 million had been spent. This included R15.076 million on a single Cape Town house for Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti, R10.673 million on an overhaul to a house for deputy Transport Minister Lydia Chikunga, and R4.978 million on upgrades to a home allocated to Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
In a country with 36% unemployment and in which 40% of workers - 6 million - live on less than R10 a day, and when there are so many backlogs in service delivery to undo the racialised inequalities we inherited from the apartheid era, COSATU cannot see any justification for spending such massive amounts on house renovations, when there are so many far more urgent claims on public money!
In March 2012 the average nominal price levels of large homes (measuring between 221-400 square metres) was R1.476 million. How can it possibly cost ten times more than that to renovate an already existing house?
The federation is urging the Minister and the Public Protector - who are both already investigating similar allegations in relation to the alleged R250 million spent on the President’s private residence - to conduct a full investigation into why these figures are so huge, which companies carried out the work, whether tender procedures were strictly adhered to and whether any tender invoices were inflated.
It is vital that the government is seen to be spending public money as responsibly as possible, not wasting it on unnecessary luxuries and above all, not using it to enable corrupt businesses to loot us dry!