Free business class flights for former ministers and their spouses: report

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Former ministers and their spouses continue to travel business class, costing taxpayers millions, according to a report by the Sunday Times

The newspaper reports that up to R45.3 million was spent on travel by former ministers, MPs, prime ministers and their spouses between 2014 and 2020,

This includes apartheid-era ministers and those who left the executive in disgrace after allowing capture of the state or being arraigned for other corrupt activities.

The Sunday Times reported that at least R 10 million was spent on thefts in the last year alone, although that excessive benefit was taken out of the ministerial manual last year.

The information comes from an application of the DA’s Access to Information Promotion (Paia) law in parliament, which highlights some of the main beneficiaries, including:

  • Former Minister of Finance Des van Rooyen – 24,000 rand in 2018/2019 and 17,000 rand in 2019/2020;
  • Adriaan Vlok, apartheid minister – R 59,000 in 2018/2019 and R 46,000 in 2019/2020;
  • Apartheid Minister Roelf Meyer – 98,000 R in 2018/2019) and (126,000 R in 2019/2020);
  • Former Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba and his wife – R 19,000 in 2018/2019 and R 87,000 in 2019/2020 and R 26,000 in 2018/2019 and R 66,000 in 2019/2020;
  • Former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and his wife – R187,000 in 2018/2019 and R124,000 in 2019/2020 and R10,000 in 2018/2019 and R61,000 in 2019/2020.
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Ministerial manual updated

In July 2019, the government released its revised guide for members of the executive, effectively replacing the controversial ministerial manual introduced in 2007.

The updated guide covers everything from moving costs to cars, with most of the new benefits appearing to be largely the same or slightly limited compared to the previous departmental manual.

This guide also describes the new powers granted to Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni to directly limit spending on transport and other luxury goods.

However, ministers can also expect increased benefits such as more staff and an increased limit on home security.

Cars

  • The South African Police Service (SAPS) will provide the member with VIP drivers and protectors for official purposes and in the interest of safety;
  • National members must have a vehicle for official use in each office seat. Provincial members will receive a vehicle for official use;
  • The cost of this vehicle – including safety upgrades – will be determined by the Minister of Finance;
  • In the event that an official vehicle is not purchased for a member, the member may be reimbursed for the use of his own private vehicle;
  • Departments can only replace a motor vehicle purchased for a member if the vehicle has reached 120,000 km or 5 years, or if the car has serious mechanical problems and is in poor condition;
  • Spouses and other dependent family members may be transported in the member’s official vehicle.
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Trip

  • Members and their spouses (or an adult member of the family accompanying the member in an official capacity) are entitled to travel for official purposes at the expense of the competent authority;
  • This trip must be business class travel using the cheapest of three (3) quotes for the most economical and convenient route;
  • Members and their spouses may use the VIP facilities at the airports concerned during their domestic trips at the expense of the department concerned;
  • No daily subsistence and travel allowance is payable to a member, his or her spouse or minor children for domestic travel;
  • National members and their spouses are also jointly entitled to 30 (thirty) national business class airline tickets per year;
  • Ministers and Deputy Ministers may only undertake official visits abroad if they are essential, in the national interest and with due regard to the availability of funds;
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Houses

  • Members may occupy a state-owned residence at the seat of the office free of charge;
  • The state will contribute up to R 250,000 in security upgrades, this amount being reviewed annually;
  • The departmental ministry of works will be responsible for paying for water and lighting as well as employing a servant for these houses;
  • Telephone rentals (as well as official call charges), installation and maintenance of fax, internet / WiFi and DSTV facilities will be the responsibility of the department.

Read the full document here.


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