Government officials blew R1.4 billion on parties, dinners and hotels during lockdown: report

Government officials in South Africa, including ministers and deputy ministers, spent over R1.4 billion on catering, accommodation and entertainment over three years, beginning May 2019, when president Cyril Ramaphosa took office.

The political party said that information obtained through a series of parliamentary questions revealed that during the past three years – which ordinary citizens mostly spent under lockdown – the ANC national government spent at least R1.2 billion in public money on accommodation, another R157 million on catering, as well as R12 million on entertainment for ministers, deputy ministers and others employed by national government departments.

“To put the total amount wasted on parties, dinners and hotels – over R1.4 billion – into perspective: this amount would have been enough to provide school meals to over 250 000 needy children for the entire duration of their 12-year school career,” the DA said.

Biggest spenders

The figures, revealed in responses to parliamentary questions, showed the following:


Department of Justice and Correctional Services – the amount spent on catering, entertainment and accommodation: R293 million

The DA said that this department accounts for nearly a quarter of all taxpayer money wasted on luxuries over the past three years.

“The department spent an eye-watering R285 million on accommodation during a period when most South Africans were locked down and not allowed to travel.”


Departments of human settlements, water and sanitation – the amount spent on catering, entertainment and accommodation: R252 million

The DA said that one of the biggest spenders “was South Africa’s own Marie Antoinette”, minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

“Over the past three years, the departments of human settlements and water and sanitation – which she oversaw for most of that period – blew a combined R252 million. This included over R200 million for accommodation and over R50 million for catering.”


Department of basic education – the amount spent on catering, entertainment and accommodation: R149 million

The DA noted that the education department did not limit itself to South African destinations in spending nearly R120 million on accommodation. “Minister Angie Motshekga, her deputy and officials spent an additional R6 million on foreign accommodation.”


Department of home affairs – the amount spent on catering, entertainment and accommodation: R149 million

“With South Africa’s home affairs and immigration systems having effectively ground to a complete halt during lockdown, (minister) Motsoaledi and his department spent the past three years racking up the third highest bill for catering, entertainment and accommodation.

“Instead of spending these scarce resources on reducing the never-ending queues at Home Affairs and speedily processing immigration applications to reduce the scope for populists like Herman Mashaba to fan the flames of xenophobia, Motsoaledi and his fellow cadres in the department instead sipped drinks at hotels on the taxpayer dime,” the DA said.

Other departments on the list included the following:

  • Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries – R137 million
  • Department of International Relations and Cooperation – R127 million
  • Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation – R74 million
  • Department of Health – R67 million
  • Department of Mineral Resources and Energy – R55 million

 

Earlier in April, DA public service and administration spokesperson Leon Schreiber said the DA saved South African taxpayers up to R39 million 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 only entitled to economy class tickets.


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Government officials blew R1.4 billion on parties, dinners and hotels during lockdown: report