Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The department of public works has defended its decision to spend R524,000 installing luxury braai entertainment areas in three homes that are used by ministers and deputy ministers, saying the upgrades are meant to enhance “functionality and property value”.

The department was recently criticised by parliament’s finance watchdog, the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), for spending money on opulence and luxury while SA’s finances are in a precarious state and the majority live in poverty.

In a written question, the DA asked public works minister Patricia de Lille about the rationale behind the decision to construct braai facilities at ministerial residences and the number of houses that were upgraded.

De Lille, the only non-ANC MP included in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet, said in her reply published on Monday she had been informed by the department that the installation of the braai facilities were meant to boost property values.

“I was informed by the department of public works and infrastructure that the rationale was to enhance functionality and property value. There were three ministerial residences that received braai facilities,” De Lille said.

In 2018, then Scopa chair Themba Godi criticised the decision to upgrade ministerial homes.

“We are also concerned about the lack of a cap for the purchasing of ministerial houses ... It is really concerning that the department has no manual for those kinds of purchases. Scopa’s contention is that it is inherent in this department to attract all sorts of characters who want to make a quick buck,” Godi said then.

Responding to another question by the DA on the planned refurbishment of the three parliamentary villages, De Lille said the scope of work for the project included general building renovations and maintenance (internally and externally). That included painting, tiling, floor coverings, roof coverings, brickwork, plastering, windows and doors. 

The upgrades also include reconfiguring bathrooms to allow for showers. The kitchen appliances, including stoves, will also be upgraded.

The refurbishments will cost the state close to R96m with the cost per unit amounting to R361,882.

“The scope of work mainly focuses on maintenance items that are as a result of a lack of or periodic and routine maintenance of the identified units within the three villages. These defects have been documented onto room data plans identifying the locations as well as the descriptions of the defects during the conditional assessments done by the professional team,” De Lille said.