Parliament tells DA to ‘pay back the money’

2015-02-10 17:20

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Parliament has turned the tables on the Democratic Alliance, which announced last week that it was planning to boycott the pre- and post-State of the Nation Address cocktail receptions, which are funded by the taxpayer.

The official opposition announced in a press statement on Friday that its MPs would not attend these lavish events because of their wasteful nature.

But Parliament has argued that it was too late for the DA to withdraw as money has already been spent on hosting its MPs and their guests.

“The DA must then explain how are they going to pay back whatever that has been budgeted to host them and their guests,” said Raseriti Tau, who is the deputy chairperson of the National Council of Provinces.

Tau said it was “political opportunism” for the DA to boycott the dinner.

Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Lechesa Tsenoli told journalists: “We incidentally just received a formal letter from the DA, telling us that this constitutes wasteful expenditure and that they are going to try and mobilise other parties to follow suit.

“And we get that letter today, two days before the function. We would have liked to have had this information last year, so that we don’t include them in the numbers for purposes of preparation,” he added.

Tsenoli said the DA has in fact led to serious wasteful expenditure in Parliament and they needed to account for it.

“If we had our way, we would ask them to pay for every plate – three course [meal] or whatever courses it is because they didn’t let us know in advance. It’s a very bad one.”

Tsenoli said the party had participated in the structures of Parliament during preparations for the event.

The DA has since accused Tsenoli of misleading journalists in this regard, saying his remarks that the DA didn’t give Parliament sufficient notice were disingenuous.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said the DA caucus was only officially notified of the post-Sona reception last Thursday, February 5, and they made the immediate decision not to attend and subsequently communicated that to the Speaker’s office.

“For Deputy Speaker Tsenoli to suggest that we had known about it for a year is simply misleading”.

Steenhuisen said the receptions, as well their costs, the increased level of security and possible presence of Public Order Police at this year’s Sona, were raised and evaded at last week’s Chief Whips’ Forum.

“As long as millions of South Africans are without electricity and may go to bed without a meal every night, lavish dinners funded by the taxpayer are indefensible.”

Meanwhile, the Congress of the People also announced yesterday that its MPs will not be part of the post-Sona cocktail dinner. The party has three MPs.

Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said the party had consistently and vociferously argued for “consumption side” expenditure and futile spending by the ANC government to be brought to an end.

“Cope, in keeping with its principled position, will therefore not attend the Sona cocktail and demands that President Zuma stops the wanton wastage of scarce public resources. Spending approximately R2500 per guest is unwarranted,” said Bloem.

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