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Tuesday Dec 11, 2012

Minister asks public to 'bring back' state properties

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi and Gauteng provincial MECs have committed themselves to reviving a campaign that invites individuals to come forward if they have any knowledge of, or have been involved in, the unlawful transfer of immovable assets belonging to the state, the ministry said.

It said the decision to revive the "Bring Back Campaign" was taken on Friday at a regular meeting of Minmec, which includes Nxesi, his deputy Jeremy Cronin, MECs, senior officials and heads of public built environment entities.

The Department of Public Works has been working on creating a comprehensive and accurate register of state assets since 1994, with little success.

Part of this exercise involves investigating the unlawful transfer of state properties to private individuals, which took place as a result of the absence of a reliable asset register. The department is the custodian and manager of state property.

It said the campaign involved a threat of forensic investigations.

"Where fraud and corruption is uncovered, legal action will be taken against individuals involved and to recover the properties concerned," the ministry said.

Sabelo Mali, a spokesman for Nxesi, said: "The problem is bigger than Public Works.

"It involves other departments, regions and provinces. A number of state properties have been stolen."

In his budget speech in May, Nxesi said it was an indictment that comprehensive, reliable and compliant registers of the immovable assets of the department and other custodians still did not exist.

He said great strides had been made to rectify the situation. Departmental officials were working closely with auditing firm Ernst & Young to reconcile deeds records and other existing databases to identify gaps.

Nxesi said: "The cleansing of all gaps identified, accompanied by physical verification of select properties contained in the cleansed database, will take a further year to complete.

"Currently, we are talking about some 35 000 properties - so even my quick win takes a year to complete."

He said the cleansing of the immovable asset register allowed the department to complete the devolution of some 50 000 properties to provinces and fast track the vesting process across the board.

"The availability of consistent and reliable data also facilitates the optimal use of state assets for policy objectives," Nxesi said.

The ministry said the Minmec meeting also reviewed the lack of progress to transform the built environment professions, where Nxesi had said it remained a concern that only 24 percent of registered professionals were black.

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