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

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

The paper reported that as much as R45.3 million has been spent on travel for former ministers, deputies, premiers and their spouses between 2014 and 2020,

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

The Sunday Times reported that at least R10 million has been spent on flights in the last year alone, despite this excessive benefit having been removed from the ministerial handbook last year.

The information comes from a Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) application from the DA to parliament, which highlights some of the top beneficiaries, including:

  • Former finance minister Des van Rooyen – R224,000 in 2018/2019 and R17,000 in 2019/2020;
  • Apartheid-era minister Adriaan Vlok – R59,000 in 2018/2019 and R46,000 in 2019/2020;
  • Apartheid-era minister Roelf Meyer – R98,000 in 2018/2019) and (R126,000 in 2019/2020;
  • Former finance minister Malusi Gigaba and his wife – R19,000 in 2018/2019 and R87,000 in 2019/2020 and R26,000 in 2018/2019 and R66,000 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.

Updated ministerial handbook

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

The updated guide covers everything from relocation expenses, to cars, with most of the new perks appearing to be largely the same or slightly reined in from the previous ministerial handbook.

This guide also describes the new powers given to finance minister Tito Mboweni to directly curb spending on transport and other luxuries.

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

Cars 

  • The South African Police Service (SAPS) shall provide the member with VIP Drivers and protectors for official purposes and in the interest of security;
  • National Members shall be provided with one vehicle for official use in each seat of office. Provincial Members shall be provided with one vehicle for official use;
  • The cost of this vehicle  – including any security upgrades – will be determined by the minister of finance;
  • In the event that an official vehicle is not procured for a member, they may be reimbursed for using their own private vehicle;
  • Departments may only replace a motor vehicle purchased for a member if the vehicle has reached 120,000 km or 5 years, or if the car experiences serious mechanical problems and is in a poor condition;
  • Spouses and other dependent family members may be transported in the member’s official vehicle.

Travel 

  • Members and their spouses (or an adult family member accompanying the member in an official capacity) are entitled to travel for official purposes at the expense of the relevant department;
  • This trip must be business class travel using the cheapest of three (3) quotations for the most cost-effective and convenient route;
  • Members and their spouses may use VIP facilities at the relevant airports on domestic travel at the cost of the relevant department;
  • No daily subsistence and travel allowance is payable to a member, their spouse, or minor children for domestic travel;
  • National members and their spouses are also jointly entitled to 30 (thirty) single domestic business class flight tickets per annum;
  • Ministers and deputy ministers may only travel on official visits abroad if these are essential, in the national interest and with due regard to the availability of funds;

Homes

  • Members may occupy a state-owned residence in the seat of office free of charge;
  • The state will contribute up to R250,000 in security upgrades, with this amount to be revised annually;
  • The ministry of departmental works will be responsible for paying for water and lights as well as employing a domestic worker for these homes;
  • Rentals for phones (as well as the costs of official calls), the installation and maintenance of fax, internet/WiFi and DSTV facilities will be paid for by the department.

Read the full document here.


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