Cape Town - The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is examining "questionable" housing contracts totalling R2bn, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale
said on Tuesday.
Opening debate at Parliament on his department's budget vote, he told MPs that the investigators had made good progress.
"Visible progress has been achieved by the SIU ... Criminals have been arrested, corrupt officials and councillors have been dismissed, (and) monies from incompetent and fraudulent contractors have been recovered.
"The SIU is currently investigating the top 20 questionable contracts nationally, to the value of R2bn."
He said two of these investigations had been completed and the case dockets handed to the director of public prosecutions.
"Five syndicates - and we're not talking individuals here - have been targeted in various provinces. In one instance, three arrests were made in Gauteng. One of the suspects arrested is a councillor in Tsakane ... More arrests are pending.
"In KwaZulu-Natal, three department officials were arrested for selling houses that were part of the enhanced extended discount benefit scheme. These officials have also been dismissed from the department. Criminal cases are still pending in this regard."
In the same province, an assistant director in the department, together with an accomplice, had been arrested for renting out low-cost houses that did not belong to them and pocketing the money.
Sexwale expressed frustration over the need for such investigations.
"This problem ... is wasting our time ... I've got a job to do, and my job is not to chase criminals out there," he said.
Among the "stubborn challenges" facing his department was shoddy workmanship.
"This is the work that should not be done in the first place. It is a waste of resources (and) time, and is costing the state substantial amounts of money, which should have gone for the building of brand new houses.
"We fully endorse the statement of the Auditor-General when he said we should establish a mechanism in government to detect this malpractice in time to prevent it from getting to a stage of investigation.
"Investigations waste time, they are expensive and complicated because you are trying to uncover and retrace something that has been done by sophisticated syndicates.
"Enough is enough regarding the incompetent shovel, wheelbarrow and bakkie brigade, who line up for tenders and only end up cheating the poorest of the poor. This does not exclude some of the larger companies," Sexwale said.
Together with the National Home Builders Registration Council, the department would work to ensure this problem was eliminated, he said.