Local News/31 October 2023,18:22pm/ Staff Writer
Free State Department of Public Works and Infrastructure Dibolelo Mance: image supplied
By Staff Writer: The Free State Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, the provincial custodian of all immovable assets, conducted a crucial stakeholder engagement session today at the Protea Hotel in Bloemfontein.
The primary objective of the meeting was to strengthen the relationship between the government and landlords, enhance communication, and jointly boost the economy and build better communities.
This strategic session was also a response to a negative audit opinion for the fiscal year 2022/23 that the department had received. It followed a meeting between the Executive Council (EXCO), led by Premier Dukwana Mxolisi, and the Auditor-General (AG), Tsakane Maluleka. The AG’s report identified the department’s property management as a significant concern, falling short of the sound financial management required by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
The report highlighted that the department was paying landlords rates that exceeded the current property rates, undermining the legislation guiding lease agreements and financial management processes.
MEC Dibolelo Mance, addressing the stakeholders, emphasized that the property sector is a fundamental pillar of the country’s transformation and economic development agenda. She stated that property management is the department’s second highest expenditure item and must realign with the strategic objectives of the department and the province.
Mance also noted that the lack of infrastructure maintenance, including buildings, is eroding potential investment opportunities leading to disinvestment. Landlords were therefore urged to perform routine maintenance checks on their buildings to ensure they remain in good condition.
Premier Mxolisi Dukwana encouraged collective responsibility, saying, “This engagement is about building and developing our communities. Beyond monetary gains, our relation with one another must transcend. We all have a cardinal responsibility to develop our province and ensure that we contribute to attracting investment, growing the economy, and creating opportunities, particularly for the youth.”