Legislature tightens rules to slam brakes on ‘Chauffeurgate’

2012-05-03 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Legislature yesterday slammed the brakes on a controversial policy that allowed some MPLs to be chauffeured at taxpayers’ expense.

The policy was introduced last year to cater for MPLs with special needs, but was open to abuse.

The Witness reported last month that 22 MPLs were being chauffeur-driven at a cost of R264 000 a month.

Seventeen of the MPLs were from the ANC and the others were from the IFP, the legislature was told at the time.

The Democratic Alliance even wrote to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela asking her to probe what it called “Chauffeurgate”.

Rules committee chairperson and deputy speaker Mtholephi Mthimkhulu said yesterday the policy — which had been in place for just under a year — had been wrongly associated with chauffeurs for elected representatives.

Among the loopholes identified was that an MPL needed only a single medical certificate from a general practitioner approving a request for assistance.

The changes introduced to tighten up on the policy include:

• While a member needing assistance will still submit a medical certificate from a general practitioner, it will have to be supported by a medical specialist within that field;

• At a political level, instead of the request for assistance being submitted to the chief whip of the party concerned, it will have to be submitted to the whips’ forum, in which all political parties in the legislature are represented;

• Once the whips have received the request for assistance the legislature will seek two additional medical opinions from specialists in that particular field;

• Once this process is completed, the request for submission will be forwarded to the office of the speaker, with the whips’ recommendations and that of the three medical specialists;

• While the review process is under way, all members who enjoy assistance at taxpayers’ expense will have to re-apply in terms of the new rules within 30 days;

• Failure to reapply will be interpreted to mean that a member concerned no longer requires the legislature’s intervention and, as such, the assistance will cease.

DA provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu welcomed the amendments and said his party would make further submissions to ensure all loopholes were closed and there was no room for abuse.

The IFP’s Mntomuhle Khawula also welcomed the changes.

“When we attended the [IFP’s] national council, they also complained about this policy, saying it was open to abuse as it stood, which opened our eyes as the KZN caucus.”

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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