Ndebele, Cronin flights cost taxpayer R3m

2012-08-10 13:48

Former Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele and his ex-deputy, Jeremy Cronin, spent nearly R3 million on domestic and international flights in the past two years.

Current Transport Minister Ben Martins revealed the cost of his predecessor’s flights in a parliamentary reply to DA MP Manny de Freitas.

In the financial year ending in March this year, Ndebele spent about R770 000 on 67 flights while Cronin’s bill was R350 000 for 51 flights.

The previous year, Ndebele spent more than R1.1 million on 100 flights while Cronin spent R642 000 on 71 flights.

Ndebele was made correctional services minister while Cronin, also the SA Communist Party’s first deputy general secretary, became deputy public works minister following President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet reshuffle in June.

De Freitas said this showed that ministers – and not just Ndebele and Cronin – did not respect taxpayers.

“They know it’s not their money,” he said. “Unfortunately, the taxpayer and the poor suffer the most.”

De Freitas said he would challenge the expenditure in the house.

But Ndebele’s spokesperson Logan Maistry said the minister had no choice but to fulfil various international and domestic obligations.

“Expenses incurred by Ndebele for travel were necessary for official business and duly authorised, therefore were not unlawful or an abuse of
public funds,” Maistry said.

He said the total amount Ndebele incurred over the two years for international and domestic trips comes to less than half a percent of the transport department’s total budget.

Maistry said the travel was for official visits abroad, including presidential delegations, mandatory meetings of various international bodies and signing of bilateral agreements.

“Costs for international trips varied according to the fluctuation of exchange rates,” he said.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and his deputy Gert Oosthuizen had spent R2.6 million on 345 domestic and international flights since 2010.

Last week, City Press reported that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Deputy Minister Pieter Mulder spent nearly R500 000 on flights over 22 months.

Attempts to contact Cronin were unsuccessful.

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