THE government, stung by billions of rand spent on leasing buildings, wants all state departments and entities that occupy private properties to relocate to state-owned buildings over the next three years.
Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde said in her budget vote speech yesterday that her department had concluded that government could save billions of rand by moving departments in private properties to government buildings.
She said public works was planning to build new buildings and to maintain existing ones to make space for state departments.
Such a move could clip the wings on dodgy building lease agreements such as the controversial attempt by police chief General Bheki Cele to move SAPS headquarters to a Pretoria building owned by businessman Roux Shabangu.
Sanlam Middestad building in Pretoria.
The Sunday Times exposed the R500million lease agreement deal entered into by Cele and Shabangu which would have seen police headquarters relocated to the latter's property at the Sanlam Middestad building in Pretoria.
But Public Protector Thuli Madonsela put the brakes on the deal when she ruled that the contract entered into with Shabangu was "improper and unlawful".
Ironically, Mahlangu-Nkabinde, who approved the deal after she was appointed minister, was severely criticised by the public protector for authorising the deal.
Mahlangu-Nkabinde acknowledged yesterday, however, that the task to relocate state departments to government-owned buildings could take a while to complete.
She further told MPs that public works, in collaboration with the department of higher education and training, had decided to renovate and convert idle state buildings to provide cheap accommodation to higher education students.
So far, the HG de Witt building in Tshwane is being refurbished and will house 180 students when completed. The department is also refurbishing the Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein, which will accommodate 700 students when it is ready.
Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein
Meanwhile, the public works, which has been criticised by a number of government departments and officials for poor maintenance of government buildings, has promised to improve its maintenance levels.