Monday, October 25, 2021

Multimillion Pula BITC SA house unoccupied three years after costly refurbishment

Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) has spent close to P3 million Pula in a South African residential house that has remained unoccupied since it was refurbished in 2015.

The Rivonia house which was purchased for use by the BITC Regional Representative was acquired at the cost of ZAR3, 000,000 (P2, 3 million) in 2008. The house was subsequently refurbished in 2016, at the cost of ZAR481, 513.72 (P369, 000). This was revealed by Assistant Minister of Trade Master Goya this week. Goya, who was responding to a question by Selebi Phikwe West Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse, said following the refurbishment a decision was taken to dispose of the house by selling it because of security concerns and the cost of maintenance and refurbishment required for the property.

He said as a result, the house has been vacant since August 2015 to date despite spending hundreds of thousands of Pula on refurbishments.

Goya said the BITC Regional Representative has since been residing in a rented apartment pending the sale of the main property, at a cost of over R335, 000 (P257, 000) per annum, or P21, 000 per month.

Keorapetse had asked the Assistant Minister to state whether BITC owns or owned a fully furnished official residential property that houses a Regional Representative in South Africa or for a different purpose and if so, to state the costs of acquiring the property and refurbishments. The MP had also wanted to find out the length of time the house has been vacant since acquisition and whether the Regional Representative in South Africa was currently accommodated in a rented apartment. Keorapetse had also questioned the logic behind the entire process of purchasing, refurbishing and leaving the house vacant at the expense of the taxpayer, a question which the Assistant Minister by his own admission, tried to dodge.

“As the Honorable Member is very observant, I was trying to dodge that part of the question,” Goya admitted. “Of course there were some lapses but what the Honorable Member needs to understand is that the property was very old, even after refurbishment, we realized that for us to continue occupying the house was going to be costly. That is the reason we decided just to dispose because where the representative was staying was much better than staying in this house.”

Goya however could not provide a clear answer when MP for Gabane-Mmankgodi Major General Pius Mokgware asked him to articulate the security issues hampering the representative from occupying the house, and whether those security reasons do not prevail in relation to the current residence. “Without enunciating in terms of item by item the security issues, I think the word security itself explains the reason we took a decision to dispose of this house amongst others. We wanted to make sure that our resident representative is very secure where he is staying, but where he is currently staying, the security is intact.” Goya told Parliament the house had been put on sale at an amount that is almost the same as the amount at which the BITC was procured.

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