Shelter may be audited

Homeless people, from areas like Culemborg and Muizenberg, are screened after they were bused in to Strandfontein sports field by the City of Cape Town this week.

The office of the Auditor-General of South Africa is deciding whether to investigate
how the City of Cape Town spent
close to R53 million on the temporary Strandfontein homeless shelter
during the national Covid-19 lockdown Africa Boso, spokesman for the office of the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), confirmed receipt of the request of Brett Herron, a member of the Western Cape legislature and secretary-general of the GOOD Party, for an investigation.

“After we have assessed it in line with our standard procedures, we will respond directly to the writer advising them how we will proceed with their request,” Mr Boso said.

He has also reported it to the Special Investigating Unit, who look into serious malpractices or maladministration relating to state institutions, state assets and public money.

They also investigate any conduct which may seriously harm the interests of the public; and establish a special tribunal to hear civil matters.

The auditor-general has a constitutional mandate and, as the Supreme Audit institution (SAi) of South Africa, to strengthen the country’s democracy by enabling oversight, accountability and governance in the public sector through auditing, thereby building public confidence.

About 2 000 homeless people were due to be housed at the temporary shelter site, on Strandfontein sports field for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown.

It closed on Wednesday May 20, after Lawyers for Human Rights launched an urgent application at the Cape High Court to interdict the City from decommissioning the site, discontinuing the services provided to people living there and relocating them to another location, until there has been adequate consultation.

In April the Strandfontein Ratepayers’ Association and Strandfontein Social and Economic Forum, also via a Cape High Court application, demanded that the site be closed – citing it as a health risk.

The court case also included a supporting affidavit by Dr Gilles van Cutsem, a senior HIV and TB advisor for Medécins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) Southern African Medical Unit and an honorary research associate at the Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research of the University of Cape Town.

On Friday July 24 Mr Herron questioned Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell in the legislature, about the total amount of money spent on the camp for the homeless.

Mr Herron said approximately R26 500 was spent on one person, while many of the camp’s inhabitants did not stay the entire six weeks the camp was running, or a nightly rate of R520 per person “to sleep in a marquee on a muddy field”. He said R48.4 million (90% of the cost) was incurred by the City’s safety and security directorate; it cost R43.8 million to hire the marquees, and R3.5 million was spent on security; transport came in at R450 000, or about R225 per person per bus ride; mattresses cost an additional R376 000, water and sewage another R238 000 and decontamination R18 000.

Mr Bredell said the City’s social development and early childhood development department covered R4 347 985.80, as per grant-in-aid sponsorship relating to management and meals on site; that additional costs were carried by the City’s Disaster Risk Management, including security, law enforcement, medical marquee, toilets and tents, which came to R52.8 million. A total of R48.4 million came from the City’s safety and security budget and R4.4m, from social development.

According to a City media statement dated Wednesday August 19, they delivered the country’s highest service reach to the homeless during the lockdown, sheltering more than double the number of homeless people compared to the whole of Gauteng. “This is according to national social development statistics reported in Parliament,” it read.

According to the statement every rand was spent on caring for the homeless, with the following achievements: that 1 352 homeless people were provided with chronic and clinical treatment for conditions like tuberculosis (TB), HIV, diabetes, hypertension and epilepsy; 272 people tested for TB and 1 858 people screened for Covid-19; more than 120 people were reintegrated with their families; 4 500 meals were issued a day; 2 000 mattresses and 2 000 blankets procured and distributed to every person; and psycho-social services were available for substance users as part of the rehabilitation process.