DA introduces Cut Cabinet Perks Bill to end President’s abuse of the Ministerial Handbook

Issued by Dr Leon Schreiber MP – DA Shadow Minister for Public Service and Administration
02 Nov 2022 in News

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Leon Schreiber MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) today announces that we are introducing a Private Member’s Bill designed to rein in the President’s dictatorial powers over the Ministerial Handbook.

Over the past decades, the DA has repeatedly exposed scandalous abuses of the Ministerial Handbook by practically every democratically-elected President our country has had. This is because the current legal framework provides dictatoral powers to the President to force taxpayers to pay for unbudgeted perks and benefits for Ministers and Deputy Ministers.

In fact, as the DA outlined in our complaint on this issue to the Public Protector, there appears to be no legal framework in place whatsoever to govern the Ministerial Handbook. This lack of a legal framework is why President Cyril Ramaphosa was not only able to massively expand the size of ministerial offices and exempt Ministers and Deputy Ministers from paying for water and electricity back in April this year, but it is also why he did so in secret with no requirement to even inform Parliament about these changes.

Were it not for the public uniting behind the DA and forcing President Cyril Ramaphosa to withdraw these changes, taxpayers would have been forced to pay over R87 million more every year for these additional perks without even knowing about it.

This untenable situation changes today, with the DA’s introduction of a new Private Member’s Bill to cut Cabinet perks.

As its title suggests, this Bill will bring to an end to the impunity with which the President is able to secretly force taxpayers to pay for additional perks and benefits. The Bill would introduce a new section – 4A – into the existing Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act 20 of 1998.

This new section would force the President to first obtain properly considered and costed recommendations from the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office-bearers before introducing benefits or allowances for Ministers and Deputy Ministers outside of their annual remuneration packages.

The Bill would also subject these perks to considerations of affordability and require the President to take into account which benefits may be reasonable given the prevailing economic situation in the country. Furthermore, the DA’s Cut Cabinet Perks Bill would require the President to report any changes to the Handbook to the National Assembly within 30 days, along with his reasons for approving the perks and what they would cost.

Even as we exposed Ramaphosa’s secret abuse of the Handbook last month, the DA has consistently emphasised that we are not being unreasonable. We recognise that there may be situations in which reasonable allowances may need to be made for additional security measures or tools of trade.

However, as with all other presidential actions that cost taxpayers money, decisions about these additional benefits must be made in a rational and transparent manner. It is untenable in a constitutional democracy for the President to have dictatorial powers to make secret decisions that affect the pockets of taxpayers.

By subjecting decisions to proper costing and assessment, and by introducing parliamentary oversight over the President’s changes to the Ministerial Handbook, the DA’s Cut Cabinet Perks Bill will make it impossible for the President to make outrageous and secret decisions that end up costing taxpayers dearly.

Given the number of scandals that have emanated from the lack of proper controls over the Ministerial Handbooks from successive presidents, it is abundantly clear that no ANC President will ever act in a responsible and transparent manner absent a law forcing them to do so.

As we have done in our war against cadre deployment, the DA is supplementing our fight against individual abuses by tackling the systemic causes of this corruption. In the case of the Ministerial Handbook, that cause is the fact that the President has dictatorial powers to make secret changes to Cabinet perks. We therefore call on members of the public and all political parties that are tired of paying the price for ANC corruption, to help us cut Cabinet perks by supporting the DA’s Bill.