QUESTION NO.: 2151
Date.: 17 Aug 2012
Mrs S J F Marais (DA) to ask the Minister for the Public Service and Administration:
- Whether she visited her departmentâ€™s headquarters, Batho Pele House, in the Pretoria Central Business District (CBD), since assuming office; if not, why not;
- why does her department pay R1,6 million per month to rent a building which has been described as derelict by her departmentâ€™s spokesperson;
- (a) how does she justify allowing departmental staff to continue working in a building that she deems unsafe and (b) why are negotiations underway to extend the lease on this building if it does not provide suitable office space;
- what are the financial costs in accommodating her department at an alternative building;
- whether she is currently making use of conference venues at hotels to conduct departmental meetings; if not, where are the meetings conducted; if so, (a) how many meetings were conducted, (b) at which hotels and (c) at what financial cost in each case, including (i) the hiring of equipment, (ii) catering, (iii) security and (iv) parking fees?
- The Honourable member's question is based on an article published in the Sunday Times of 29 July 2012. I have since lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman because of the deliberate sensation contained in the article.
- A letter from my predecessor will go a long way in answering your query. At the beginning of 2012 he wrote;
"The DPSA has raised the problems which often make the building inhabitable and impedes the performance of employees and sometimes amounts to fruitless and wasteful expenditure when employees and guests are sent home early or cannot enter the building. The main structural and other maintenance problems pertaining to the building are as follows:
- Water leaking through walls, which was attended to in some areas, however, other areas still need attention;
- Sewage pipes leak from time-to-time into first floor parking area, which is a health hazard because of the smell and the fact that people are expected to walk through the contaminated water to their offices which further contaminates the carpets and floors and leave employees with open shoes/sandals unsettled for the day as they had to walk through the sewage water on their way to work;
- Toilets are often blocked with are accompanied by bad smells on almost all floors more often lately;
- Air-conditioners on all floors are mostly malfunctioning and noisy and negatively affect the health condition of employees and their ability to concentrate and be heard in meetings;
- Electrical fittings are faulty and do not provide adequate light in parts of the building;
- Gutters on part of the building and blocked which is damaging the water-proofing, especially to the areas which houses the information technology facilities of the department;
- The lifts malfunction often and some employees have been stuck in the lifts which do not have air-conditioning and an intercom system;
- The buttons outside the lifts are not working on some floors so the lifts do not stop on those floors which is especially unacceptable for people with disabilities who cannot use the stairs;
- Sometimes the lifts do not stop flush with the floor level and people could trip and fall and be seriously injured;
- Bricks used for paving continue to come loose at the entrance to the parking area on level 1, which could damage the wheels and body of low cars;
- When it rains water enters the level 1 parking flooding a large section of the parking on this level;
- Although this area was fixed recently, water leaks from the ceiling where employees enter the canteen, which makes the floor to the canteen slippery and hazardous;
- Water leaks from the balcony of the canteen into the offices of supply chain management, located below canteen;
- Cracks in the walls of the building on the inside and outside were fixed before, however, the cracks have reappeared and are a cause of concern to employees;
- Ledges outside the building and above the windows were previously fixed when they had broken off and fallen down to the ground, now even at the fixed ledges, cracks have reappeared and the risk of concrete falling on employees and guest may be high and is hazardous;
- Renovations were recently done to the fourth floor offices of the Minister, however, the following are of concern:
- New air-conditioners are not working in some of the offices, but DPSA was not informed of who will maintain the air-conditioners; and
- Water from the new air-conditioners has damaged the new floor in the MPSA office.
Given the long list of material issues that plague the building DPSA occupies, it consumes too much attention of the employees who need a conducive and safe working environment to perform and to concentrate on their work, instead of structural and health hazards.
It should also be noted that the building does not have a boardroom that can accommodate a meeting with all senior managers. This requires the DPSA to often source outside venues that have financial implications for senior management meetings and other meetings with more than 22 delegates".
In an effort to resolve these issues an interdepartmental team consisting of officials from the National Treasury, Departments of Public Works and Public Service and Administration has been constituted. I have been advised that preliminary discussions have been initiated between officials. The mandate of the task team is to consider the accommodation requirements of the DPSA and to recommend a solution that DPSA can access additional fundingfor this purpose through the 2013 Medium Term Expenditure Framework.
- The assertion that "I deem Batho Pele House unsafe" is based on a story that I have lodged a complaint about. I have never expressed any view whatsoever about Batho Pele House.
- This information will be made available once a lease agreement for the alternative building has been signed.
- All departmental meetings have historically been held outside of Batho Pele House, please refer to the quote above.