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2013-11-10 14:01

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Government officials have less than a week left to run up credit card bills at taxpayers’ expense.

All government credit cards will have to be cut up on Friday.

This is according to an amendment to the regulations of the Public Finance Management Act published in the Government Gazette this week.

This is the first of the “austerity” measures announced in Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s medium-term budget policy statement last month to curb the excessive expenditure of senior civil servants.

After Friday, no “institution” or “public entity” may “implement a corporate credit card scheme”, reads the new regulations.

In addition, the accounting authorities of all government entities “must cancel each credit card issued before November 15 2013 and valid on that date”.

Treasury spokesperson Phumza Macanda said the ban on credit cards was comprehensive and included the entire government and state-owned companies.

Replying to City Press’ questions by email, Macanda said Treasury did not have an estimate of how many credit cards were in the hands of state officials.

When asked how officials would now fund expenditure that was not illegitimate or excessive, Macanda said: “Government is discussing the mechanisms of how the measures will be implemented.

“Once those discussions are finalised, the guidelines will be published.”

A slew of recent scandals demonstrates that a week is plenty of time to cause significant damage with the credit cards issued to office bearers at every level of government, right down to the municipalities:

The most infamous case is that of former Gauteng MEC for local government Humphrey Mmemezi, who last year used his departmental credit card to buy a painting from a fast food restaurant for the princely sum of R10?000.

He went on to buy suits in India and groceries on the provincial government card. When caught up in the media furore, Mmemezi returned the money and apologised.

Humphrey Mmemezi

Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas used her official credit card to spend R53?159 on fast food during her first 10 weeks in office, the Sunday Times reported.

Sylvia Lucas

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane had been criticised for spending R57?000 on her credit card in 2011, but later defended herself, saying she used a fraction of the R1.2?million limit on the state-issued card. Most of the credit card use was for business lunches with potential investors in the province, she said.

One dinner meeting cost R16?000.

Nomvula Mokonyane

City Press’ sister publication, Beeld, previously reported that Gauteng Infrastructure Development MEC Qedani Mahlangu spent R7?309 at a leather goods store in Istanbul, Turkey, using her card.

Qedani Mahlangu

Gauteng Finance and Economic Affairs MEC Mandla Nkomfe reportedly spent more than R160?000 in a year, primarily on fuel, and car maintenance and entertainment, even though his yearly package includes a car allowance.

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