After spending almost three-quarters of a billion rand on the three parliamentary villages, its upkeep and transport the past 10 years, the Department of Public Works is planning another project, worth R110m, to refurbish houses for MPs.
The department is also planning to demolish and replace the prefabricated houses containing asbestos at the parliamentary villages at a later stage.
Then there also are projects to refurbish the parliamentary precinct of at least R540.4m.
The department briefed the Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament late on Wednesday, shortly after Finance Minister Tito Mboweni presented a grim medium-term budget policy statement.
Mzwandile Sazona, chief director of the department’s prestige portfolio – which includes Parliament and the parliamentary villages – said they would start in January with the refurbishment of 245 of the housing units at the three parliamentary villages.
This will cost R110m.
He said the parliamentary villages were built shortly after the World War II in 1946.
They also intend to initiate a “long overdue” project to replace the prefabricated units – some of which are underneath an Eskom servitude.
Deputy Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Noxolo Kiviet said the project was planned for previous terms but it kept being postponed.
Kiviet said the prefabricated houses were beyond their life cycles and couldn’t continue to be used to MPs.
“Truly, the state of those houses…” she said, her voice trailing off.
“This has a potential for disaster.”
The department also briefed the committee on recent projects on the parliamentary precinct, totalling R540.4m.
Parliament’s Marks Building, which has recently been renovated at R41m. (Jan Gerber/News24).
The projects on the parliamentary precinct are:
- R41m to renovate the Marks Building, which houses the opposition parties. Sazona said the building’s roof was a major challenge because the only company that could do the work was a German company because the roof was of a “heritage material”. Furthermore, there was unforeseen work on the air-conditioning system. The project is recently completed.
- R110m to refurbish the National Council of Provinces. This project is 69% completed. It is expected to be completed by April. The refurbishment of the chamber and the chairperson’s office is completed. This project also involves “tremendous electrical work”, as the “cabling in the NCOP was in a shambles” and in contravention of regulations, Sazona said.
- R47m to maintain and update the security system and equipment for access control to the parliamentary precinct. This contract ends on October 31, but Treasury granted a six-month extension for a bidding process for a new contract.
- R25m for the refurbishment of the sixth floor of 90 Plein Street to house officials. This floor previously housed officials from the Department of Justice. The project, which intends to “create more space for Parliament to operate”, is complete.
- R9.2m to refurbish the lifts at 90 Plein Street. This will be completed in December.
- R16.2m to create more office space at 100 Plein Street. This project is in the procurement phase.
- R24m for structural repairs to the Old Assembly building’s basement. This is “necessary to enhance the structural integrity of Parliament”.
- R7.7m to refurbish several kitchens on the parliamentary precinct. This is still in the planning phase.
- R2m to repair leakages in the basement of 90 Plein Street
- R6.1m to repair the sewerage and stormwater system to get rid of a “stench and a smell coming through around [the State of the Nation Address] time”, according to Sazona. This will go out on tender in November.
- R3.2m for structural repairs at Stalplein. It will be completed in August, next year.
- The refurbishment of 222 offices during the recess.
- R249m for the refurbishment of the eighth to fourteenth floors of 90 Plein Street to provide more office space. Planning is in an advanced stage, but work will only start in two years when officials from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform have found new accommodation.
- A security upgrade of the parliamentary precinct is also planned.
Sazona said there were some challenges.
They must ensure it doesn’t interfere with the daily work of the legislature and the security of Parliament and the well-being of staff and members must not be compromised.
Furthermore, some of the buildings are also heritage buildings, which require working with the South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra).
The committee’s co-chairperson Peace Mabe said, referencing Mboweni’s medium-term budget policy statement: “This topic comes at an unfortunate time.”
She said the economy wasn’t doing well and Mboweni said there must be cuts.
“An ordinary person might feel MPs are transgressing by wanting privileges,” she said.
“But when you look at the reality, it is not like that.”
Mabe took the department and Parliament to task for not furbishing halls at each of the parliamentary villages which have been upgraded to gymnasiums. She also wants tuckshops at the parliamentary villages and a day care centre at Parliament.
Another MP complained about spiders at the Laboria Park village.
Earlier this month, a parliamentary reply by Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille, who could not attend Wednesday’s meeting, revealed that the total cost incurred by the government for the three parliamentary villages during the terms of the Fourth and Fifth Parliaments – from 2009 to 2019 – was R743 788 400.04.