DA MPs

2011-06-10 00:00

DEMOCRATIC Party MP Manie van Dyk’s controversial R275 000 travel claim bill, which he submitted to Parliament, included claims for his daughter travelling between Centurion and Cape Town, sparking renewed scrutiny of his large bill.

Van Dyk, shadow minister of public enterprises, admitted this week that his massive travel bill — which made headlines when it was revealed by then Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille last September — included claims by his daughter, Wanya Downing, and her husband, but he insisted they were within the rules.

He said newspapers and taxpayers should get their facts in order before criticising him or referring to Parliament as a “gravy train”.

“We all do it, and we’ve being doing it for decades,” he said.

Friends of Wanya and her husband, Reinhardt, told Media24 Investigations this week that the two openly spoke about how their trips between Centurion and Cape Town were paid for by the taxpayer during 2009/10. Wanya, who runs a business called Unified Productions Performing Arts Studio, and who was running it in 2009 during the travel claims, also attended dance events in Cape Town, they said.

When De Lille went public with details of MPs’ travel claims last year, Van Dyk’s example was scathingly criticised, as the claims for the road trips between Johannesburg and Cape Town were triple what an air fare would have cost.

Van Dyk said he took exception to his daughter being named by her friends. “Stop harassing my family and my daughter. Everything has been investigated — so I don’t know what you want to achieve. Do me a favour and go and read the rules that apply to dependants. People who study full-time or who live with you … I don’t know,” he said.

Natasha Michael, deputy chair of the DA federal council, said she is dissatisfied with information about Van Dyk’s claims provided to her by Parliament and she has requested all the detailed documentation on toll tariffs, petrol claims and the driver.

Corné Mulder of the FF Plus said there are very clear stipulations in the rules and regulations of travel claims by parliamentarians.

He charged that Van Dyk definitely broke the rules if he had registered his daughter as a dependant while she was not at school or a full-time student. If she was earning an income from her own company, he definitely broke the rules, he said.

Van Dyk, a former deputy mayor of Pretoria, and Downing were reluctant to answer further questions about the travel claims. “Speak to my father and speak to the DA,” said Wanya Downing. She did not deny that her travelling had contributed to the travel claim.

Asked for comment yesterday, Idasa political researcher Nonhlanhla Chanza said, “I just cannot get the policy. The people I spoke to are not sure whether to give it to me or not.”

Asked if he will consider repaying the money, Van Dyk said the question is irrelevant. “Go and ask all the other MPs if they will pay back the money they have claimed over decades.I will not speak to you any further,” he said.

Requests to Parliament’s communications office for comment and documents were not answered.

NATASHA Michael, deputy chair of the DA federal council, was adamant yesterday that the investigation into the Van Dyks’ travel claims is continuing.

“I am not sure why Manie van Dyk is saying that the investigation is completed. I am still busy with my investigation. All of this needs to be completely transparent,” she said yesterday.

Michael said part of the problem is that the rules and regulations of Parliament are inadequate and that Parliament simply signed off on anything MPs submitted.

She said she insists now on viewing all original claims and not just a summary. She is aware that some claims were submitted by Van Dyk on behalf of his daughter and her then fiancé and she is scrutinising them all.

Professor Dirk Kotze of Unisa’s department of political science said part of the problem is Parliament’s outdated rules and regulations. “Dr Van Dyk did not break the law, but there is also the ethical question,” he said, pointing to the DA’s own code of conduct for public representatives, which admonishes them to “maintain the highest standards of ethical behaviour”.

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