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A MASSIVE housing scam has been unearthed in Bulawayo where council officials are ignoring proper procedures in the allocation and development of stands with a number of buildings being built without plans while infill stands are still being allocated despite a ban effected in 2010.
Surprisingly the local authority, already at loggerheads with its parent ministry — Local Government, Public Works and National Housing — over provision of housing in the city, said it will not demolish the unapproved structures.
Sunday news reported that confidential council report states that the local authority instituted an audit on its Housing and Community Services Department after numerous complaints raised by residents and other groups.
The report read that the audit discovered that the department’s filing system was in shambles with officials even failing to locate some building plans.
“During site visits, audit observed that some developers constructed and completed buildings without approved plans on site. These plans could be among the unapproved plans that need amendments. There are also instances of private arrangements between inspectors and developers as long as there is proof of submission of plans by the developer.
“From the selected plan sample, 51 buildings were constructed and completed without plans on site, 23 of them were collected and availed after the audit visit, and 28 are yet to be availed. 15 other properties that were at different building levels also had no plans.
Two plans were in the possession of the owners at the site and had comments for corrections. Another one had no plan at all but trenches had been dug. When audit interviewed the developers with unapproved plans on site, they claimed that they were not aware of what was expected of them as building inspectors never mentioned anything to them about the plans and they thought everything was in order,” reads part of the report.
It was further exposed that due to the council monitoring systems which is in shambles, there were some stands in the city that were allocated on unsuitable land for development.
“Audit observed irregularities in allocation of stands. These were either allocated by Hlalani Kuhle officials or council officials but when audit consulted the town planning section, they were informed that they take all the precautions before allocation.
“The town planner highlighted that at times home seekers insist on occupying such pieces of land and they are left with no option but to allocate such interested individuals. These stands were allocated either on a stream, under electric cables or rocky areas. Audit was informed that the section is aware of such and is in the process of rectifying the said allocations,” read the minutes.
The audit further lamented the failure by residents, new developers and contractors to display either stand or physical address numbers on their premises. They further uncovered a possible scam in the allocation of in-fill stands, noting that some stands were irregularly allocated.
“Application and allocation of infill stands was suspended in 2010 when council noticed that most of these stands had problems that needed to be attended to first. Audit observed that some infill stands were created on top of sewer and/or water pipes, rocky areas, swampy areas or too close to the streams making it difficult for developers to build.
“There is a possibility that the concerned town planning officers never went to the sites to confirm the situation or position on the site, and they relied only on maps without liaising with other relevant departments or sections,” read the minutes.
Contacted for a comment, the council’s senior public relations officer, Nesisa Mpofu said in such scenarios the local authority was not compelled to demolish the structures but work with the contractor to ensure council by-laws are followed.
“If the departure from the approved building plans fall within the requirements of the building by-laws, the property owner will be directed to submit revised plans covering the departures so as to regularise the development. If the variations do not comply, the property owner will be directed to simply comply with the approved plans or make such alterations to the structure as that will ensure compliance to the building by-laws and submit the plans for approval.
“The general public is advised to comply with the requirements of National Model Building by-laws, 1977 that guide construction requirements for all building structures as well as the city by-laws,” said Mpofu. Source: by Vusumuzi Dube. Sunday News