Sisulu axes HDA bosses

The roof has caved in again on the troubled Housing Development Agency, responsible for providing low-cost housing and government’s R4.6-billion Covid-19 temporary housing programme.

On Wednesday, the human settlements, water and sanitation minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, under whose department the HDA falls, fired its acting chief executive, Mikki Xayiya, and its chief financial officer, Brian Mosehla.

While Xayiya will be retained as a member of the HDA board, to which Sisulu appointed him at the end of 2019, until its term comes to an end in a few weeks, Mosehla has been “released from all duties” with immediate effect.

The two have come under fire over the failure of the government’s temporary residential unit (TRU) programme, set up last year in response to the pandemic in a bid to de-densify several shack settlements around the country.

Many of their initial projects drew criticism over high prices and poor workmanship in the 27 areas where they were built. The National Home Builders Registration Council last year launched a probe into the building of 40 units at Talana Hostel in Tzaneen, Limpopo, at a cost of R64 000 each.

Sisulu’s spokesperson Steve Motale confirmed the firings, saying that the decision to act against Xayiya and Mosehla had been taken after an audit of the HDA’s work — and that of other entities under her portfolio — by the ministry, in conjunction with municipalities and provinces.

“They have looked at performance against assigned responsibilities by the Act, ministerial directives and policy pronouncements. The HDA performance was found to be not satisfactory at all,” Motale said.

The recent cabinet lekgotla and Minmec (the forum consisting of the national human settlements ministry and its provincial counterparts) had also heard complaints about the “inability of the HDA to lead the recovery in the construction sector”, Motale said.

“Subsequently, Minmec recommended that the minister make changes in the leadership of the HDA to fast-track delivery, and to enable the building of capacity to respond to current challenges,” Motale said.

Motale said HDA chief operating officer Stephen Poya would act as chief executive until a permanent appointment could be made, while Nyameko Mbengo would be seconded from the department to act as interim chief financial officer on the same basis.

Xayiya is a former Mvelaphanda Group chief executive. He was appointed by Sisulu when she took over the ministry. She extended his term last year, after rejecting a candidate for chief executive shortlisted by the HDA board. 

A source in the department, who asked not to be named, said that the decision to axe the HDA leadership came after a series of complaints, and a raid on the HDA headquarters by the Hawks in December over the TRU project.

“There have been several allegations around procurement and tender allocation. Nyameko Mbengo has been brought in with instruction to do a forensic audit of all procurement since Mosehla arrived at the HDA and Xayiya became CEO,” the source said. “You will remember that the Hawks raided the HDA offices in December and that they are under pressure over the audit of the TRU programmes. The minister and her legal team have been briefed by the Hawks. This has forced them to act,”’ the source added.

When she appointed Mosehla as acting chief financial officer for 12 months, Sisulu wrote to the HDA board, saying that he was a chartered accountant with vast experience.

“I have no doubt that he will add value to the HDA,” Sisulu said at the time.

In 2018, Sisulu’s predecessor, Nomaindia Mfeketo, dissolved the then HDA board, which had appointed a number of investigations into its then chief executive, Pascal Moloi, and other executives.

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