The unresponsiveness and deficient management of the Department of Public Works is an obstacle to service delivery in poor communities.
Today, I visited the Zwelihle community in the Overstrand Municipality. The police station in this community may have to close if the National Department of Public Works fails to sign a lease agreement for the building – which has been pending for more than six years.
The Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi has said that "This department is in the intensive care unit”. Whilst the Minister is attempting to resuscitate his department through various turnaround strategies, service delivery to poor communities continues to be undermined.
In Zwelihle, the Department of Public Works leased a property from the municipality which was used by the South African Police Service (SAPS) as a satellite police station. However, in 2001 the Department terminated the lease as the Department was of the opinion that this satellite police station did not serve a sufficient purpose.
As both the SAPS representatives in Hermanus and the local community were of the view that the station was providing an indispensable service in the area, the police continued to use the property. The municipality has been trying to enter into a new agreement with the Department since 2007.
Various attempts have been made by both the municipality and Democratic Alliance (DA) representatives to get a response from the Department of Public Works see record of correspondence. Appeals have been directed at both the National Department of Public Works and the SAPS leadership. In most cases, no response was received.
On 16 February this year, I wrote to acting Director General in the Department of Public Works to request intervention in the matter. Again, no feedback has been received.
The Department of Public Works is the asset manager of the state and is committing to ensuring that “immovable property owned and / or utilised by the State for delivering various government services yield functional, economic and social benefits to the State.”
According to sources at the station, in the past 6 months, the Zwelihle police station has been successful in 62 out of 73 cases of ‘all types’ of assault, 8 out of 14 cases of ‘all types’ of robberies, 21 out of 53 cases of ‘all types’ of housebreaking, 5 out of 7 cases of ‘all types’ of murders and 10 out of 10 cases of ‘all types’ of rape.
This station is clearly functional and necessary for the safety of the community.
The DA takes service delivery seriously. The inefficiency of the Department of Public Works is restricting our capacity to deliver.
It is imperative for Minister Nxesi to address the lack of expertise, irregular rental procedures and absence of an adequate asset register for the Department which is currently hampering its performance.
Poor communities cannot be allowed to suffer while the Department gets its house in order.