Wasteful Expenditure: One year in office, R1 billion and counting
Athol Trollip, Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Alliance
9 May 2010
A year ago President Zuma made a clear and unequivocal promise that cutting back on wasteful expenditure would be a priority for his government. Today, a year later, the DA’s wasteful expenditure monitor has broken the R1 billion mark, and it continues to climb (we add to it, another R56 million today). And it appears the President’s promise and all the intent that supposedly underpinned it was little more than empty rhetoric. Indeed, it is fair to say, rather than frugality, personal indulgence is the primary characteristic by which the Jacob Zuma’s administration has been defined. And if he wants to turn the tide, he needs to start acting and stop talking.
In his first State of the Nation Address as President, on 3 June 2009, Zuma stated:
“Since the implementation of our programme will take place in the face of the economic downturn, we will have to act prudently - no wastage, no rollovers of funds - every cent must be spent wisely and fruitfully. We must cut our cloth according to our size.”
He was followed by the Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, who stated in his budget vote speech:
“After seven years of growing budgets and rising revenues there is a degree of fiscal looseness in the system and now is the time to tighten up on that looseness.” He continued, “Money is not the problem ... it is how we spend the money. This has to improve.”
Quite right. But words and actions seem to be two very different things for the ANC administration, and today the Democratic Alliance can add the following items to its Wasteful Expenditure Monitor:
- Minister of Defence, April 2010: R 7 million spent on a fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles including four E-class sedans valued at approximately R1.17 million each.
- Minister of Communications, March 2010: R 515 000 spent on prolonged stays at luxury five-star hotels, including the Mount Nelson Hotel and Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Cape Town.
- Minister of Communications, May 2009: R 319 265 spent on furniture for the Minister’s residence but was kept in storage while the Minister lived in luxury hotels.
- Minister of Finance, April 2010: R 3429 spent on cancelled accommodation reservations.
- South African Police Service, April 2010: Approximately R 2 million has been spent on VIP protection for ANC Youth League President Julius Malema since November 2009.
- Eastern Cape Provincial Government, May 2010: R 6 million spent on luxury Mercedes-Benz ML 4x4s for traditional kings.
- A further R 854 460 spent on two Mitsubishi Pajero 4x4s for members of Eastern Cape House of Traditional Affairs.
- Mayor of Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality, April 2010: R16 million spent irregularly on sending 18 learners on soccer training to Brazil.
- SABC, April 2010: R 26 million spent on rental space for FIFA World Cup 2010. This despite being offered a R 3.7 million space at Nasrec leading to a total waste spend of R 22.3 million.
These items come to a total of R56 million, an amount which in and of itself, could have built 1037 RDP houses or employed 434 new teachers. It brings the overall total of the monitor to just under R1.1 billion.
None of the items on the DA’s list are marginal or ambiguous. They are all cut and dried examples of money misused or abused by senior members of the ANC administration, often on personal indulgence or luxury; entirely unnecessary and always at the expense of the South African taxpayer.
For its part, the DA is taking concrete steps to tackle the problem. We have written to the Director-General in the Presidency, Mr Vusi Mavimbela, asking for amendments to be made to the Ministerial Handbook so that ministerial spending is more responsible and more accountable. In the Western Cape, where we, the DA, govern, changes are being made to the handbook which will apply to all DA MECs in the province. The DA has also halted the purchase of new cars by members of the provincial cabinet.
So the DA has put its money where its mouth is, so to speak. But Jacob Zuma and the ANC seem to have done everything but act. The situation is an indictment of its administration and says everything about where their priorities lie. Egos have triumphed over good governance and, unless the problem is addressed, Jacob Zuma’s administration will be defined by nothing more than the number of luxury German automobiles his government bought while in office.