The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has rolled out an R2.3 billion maintenance and repairs plan for the country's courts, police stations, and Home Affairs offices, Minister Patricia De Lille has announced.
First up on the department's agenda will be the courts.
De Lille last week convened an urgent meeting at the National Prosecuting Authority offices with the DPWI's regional offices, justice offices, court managers and the Chief Justice.
During the meeting, a plan of action to attend to all of the concerns raised was agreed to.
"I have just finished a meeting where I received feedback from all the nine provinces, from the regional managers and the Department of Justice officials," she said, addressing reporters on Thursday.
"… We are responsible for the infrastructure. We must make sure that the spaces where the public interacts with government on a daily basis are in a good state and that ablution facilities work. The Department of Justice is, of course, responsible for the content and the judicial process.
"It is a good relationship that we have built and that we are trying to continue with all other [departments] where the public interacts with government on a daily basis.
The department has set aside R2.3 billion for court maintenance within the current financial year. After the courts, De Lille said the department will turn its attention to police stations and Home Affairs offices.
"When the public arrives at a government building and it's [in] a bad state: the lifts are not working, the air-conditioning is not working, the toilets are not working. That is the first impression, that the government doesn't care. We can see the impact of not maintaining and repairing courts.
"Today we came to an agreement with the Department of Justice… that Public Works will not be in a position to do everything alone and we have asked the Department of Justice to help by going through their own procurement systems, and help us implement some of these contractual obligations that we have. They have agreed to help us," De Lille said.
In the past week, Public Works procured much-needed lifts for the Durban High Court. The department contained a rat infestation at the Pinetown Magistrates Court in Durban and resolved an air-conditioning maintenance issue at the Cape Town regional courts.
"The Labour Court in Cape Town has for the past five years asked for Public Works to provide them with alternative accommodation in a different building. We have now started the process of identifying a building so we can help the Labour Court. They work in very cramped conditions. By the end of next week, I will have a list of DPWI buildings that I can put before the Labour Court to see if they can use them," De Lille said.
A contractor has been appointed to attend to the faulty lifts in the magistrates' courts and the High Court in Johannesburg.
De Lille said the department will use the courts to show how government can make public buildings more user-friendly.
"We are also improving systems to prevent this from happening again and to be more proactive. There is no reason for the status quo to continue and for the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to constantly be blamed for the state of buildings, and for the department to continue having a bad name.
"We are going to start remedial action now with projects that are moving at a slow pace."
Corruption within the department, the Minister said, is hampering maintenance severely.
"This disgraceful practice is coming to an end. While we are cleaning up the department, we also have to deliver better public buildings and turn them into more comfortable spaces for when the public interacts with government," said the Minister.
(With Inputs from South African Government Press Release)