Let us eat cake and sleep guilt-free under silk duvets – SA’s MPs

Government blew R1,3bn on parties, dinners and hotels for its MPs and staff over the past three years; enough to provide school meals for 250,000 needy children for their entire school careers. While some of this may be justified, you get an idea of the profligate spending on hearing that, until recently, retired MPs continued to enjoy free flights for the rest of their lives. The ‘gravy plane’ ruckus led to some severe paring back. MPs can now fly free only for five years after retiring, and then only after they’ve served at least one full term. Shame! I mean one deserves some perks for the enormous sacrifices one makes in exhausting, selfless service of your countrymen. Even if one doesn’t let schoolchildren eat cake. Story courtesy of MyBroadband. – Chris Bateman

Government officials splurge R1.3bn on catering, accommodation

By Myles Illidge

South Africa’s government officials, including ministers and deputy ministers, have spent over R1.3bn on food, accommodation and entertainment over the past three years, City Press reported.

The figures were revealed in ministers’ responses to parliamentary questions, and the biggest spender was the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, with an accommodation spend of R282m . The department spent an additional R11m on catering and entertainment for its officials.

Another big spender was the Department of Basic Education, which blew R150m; R114m of the expenditure went towards accommodation for officials since May 2019.

Minister for Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, revealed that his department had spent R149m over the three years, R142m of which was spent on accommodation. Motsoaledi explained the department had spent the funds securing accommodation for officials at events such as conferences, parliamentary briefings, and deployment of officials to borders. “The accommodation expenditure is for official trips, namely, domestic and international,” he said.

“These trips are to attend conferences, parliament briefings, bilateral meetings, visits to offices and for border deployment of officials to borderlines during festive/ Easter periods.”

Other big spenders include the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, with expenditures of R137m and R127m, respectively.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been outspoken on the excessive spending by government officials. DA public service and administration spokesperson Leon Schreiber stated the amounts spent were excessive, adding that the government could have put the funds to better use.

“The amount spent on parties, dinners and hotels would be enough to provide school meals for 250,000 needy children for their entire school career of 12 years,” City Press quoted Schreiber as saying. He also pointed fingers at the Home Affairs and Justice and Correctional Services ministers, as the funds could have been used to improve the financial situations of their departments.

Earlier this month, Schreiber said the DA saved South African taxpayers up to R39m each year after exerting “relentless pressure” for Parliament to adopt a new travel policy for retired ministers and their deputies.

Schreiber said the DA-inspired travel policy includes cutting free flights for government officials by 75%, no business class flights, and a five-year limit instead of a lifetime of free flights. More specifically, annual free flights for officials and their spouses have been cut from 72 to 12, and officials are entitled to only economy class tickets.

The policy aims to tackle the ‘gravy plane’ scandal, where it emerged retired government officials were entitled to free flights, even decades after they retired from office.

Now, rather than a lifetime of free flights, officials can use this benefit for five years after retirement from Parliament and only if they served at least one full term.

The DA predicts this approach will save South African taxpayers almost R197m over five years.

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