NYDA blew millions in hotel splurge

2011-10-21 00:00

THE National Youth Development Agency spent more than R3,2 million at a Pretoria hotel while planning the World Festival of Youth, which has become notorious as much for its huge price tag as its shambolic organisation.

Hotel bills obtained by Media24 Investigations under information law show how the agency burned through R1,75 million in accommodation for members of the local and international committees that organised the festival, and almost R1,5 million on catering and conference facilities between October 9 and the end of the festival on December 21.

The grand total, sent by the three-star Burgerspark Hotel in Pretoria to the NYDA on January 10, came to R3 233 255,16.

The agency paid R875 per night for dinner, bed, breakfast and one soft drink, and although some delegates only spent one or two nights in the hotel, two delegates’ room bills came to over R70 000, 11 to over R60 000, three over R50 000 and eight over R30 000.

Both the NYDA and the hotel said the room charges did not include room service or minibar bills, which were for delegates’ own account.

In a written response to questions from Media24 Investigations, the NYDA said the hotel was used to house the 30 members of the festival’s international organising committee and the 39 local members of the national preparatory committee.

The NYDA said it was “common practice and a condition of the World Federation of Democratic Youth” for its international organising committee to arrive in the host country at least two months before the start of the festival.

“They were accommodated at one area during the critical stages of planning for the world festival”, the agency said.

The total bill was still significantly less than the whopping R4 million the hotel initially quoted, because, the agency said, ultimately fewer guests used the hotel, and towards the end of the period the agency shifted its operations to the Tshwane Events Centre where the festival took place.

Hotel invoices show that the agency paid R402 000 to have a conference room in the hotel turned into an operations centre from early October until the conclusion of the festival — R65 000 for the room, R225 000 for partitioned desks and branded banners, R100  000 on the rental of five flat-screen TVs (R40 300), a copier (R57 800) and a paper shredder (R14 000).

On the final day of the conference, December 21, the agency ran up a bill at the hotel’s Diplomat Bar for just under R30 000. The agency said it was for an “intergenerational dinner hosted for veterans of the world festival, former members of the World Federation of Democratic Youth and lead members of the international organising committee and the national preparatory committee” — the two committees that were also put up in the hotel.

The agency was billed for 47 days’ use of conference facilities in the run-up to the conference and for six days during the conference itself. It paid R250 per person per day for its organising committee members for three servings of tea and coffee, three bottles of mineral water and mints, and R175 a head for buffet lunches.

The variance in day-to-day billing indicates that not all members attended sessions every day. The lowest day-rate for conferencing services was R525 on December 17 and the highest R44  750, which included catering for 152 people. The delegates usually didn’t have a buffet lunch. Spending on conferencing averaged just over R11 000 per day.

• investigations@media24.com

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