Royal household in the red

2012-06-25 00:00

DESPITE getting a larger budget, the Royal Household Department has still not managed to rein in its over-expenditure.

The department was in trouble once more on Friday during the KZN Finance Committee’s close out hearings with over R4 million in over-expenditure. This was incurred on the hiring of cars, paying consultants and abuse of the subsistence and travel (S&T) allowance.

Finance committee members queried money allocated for cars for the queens and the upgrade of rondavels at the palaces. It appeared that the rondavels were to be repaired, but officials in the department had upgraded them into top class structures complete with expensive furnishings.

Without senior managers to give answers, the committee resolved to hold another meeting at which officials will have to give a breakdown of the expenses incurred. Premier Zweli Mkhize and KZN director-general Nhlan­hla Ngidi would be asked to be at the meeting as the Royal Household falls under the Premier’s department.

Committee members expressed concern that money had been taken out of the capital expenditure that had been ring-fenced for the renovation of the King’s palaces, to offset the overspend on the goods and services budget. They learnt that R5 million had been spent on the renovations and the remaining R3 million was used on goods and services.

The ACDP’s Jo-Ann Downs said what was worrying was that the department had overspent while it already had R1,8 million from previous years overspending still to be paid. If this was added to the R4,5 million it makes R6,3 million to come off this year’s budget, even before any money was spent in the new financial year, said Downs. She added that in previous years, more money was spent on hiring a car than the value of an outright purchase.

“We expected that when a department is called for a hearing they would prepare for the meeting. It shows contempt for the legislature and it’s functions . In addition we were told at the meeting that once money is transferred to the Royal Household Trust that the deptartment has no further interest in its management . This is outrageous and an egregious dereliction of duty. Taxpayers expect to get value for money,” Downs added.

The Royal Household Trust has long been a concern of the leader of the official opposition in the KZN legislature, the IFP’s Blessed Gwala. He said the trust was supposed to control expenditure and raise funds for the royal household.

According to Gwala, the setting up of the trust has only duplicated both cost and government functions in the affairs of the Royal Household.

He also questioned the issue of the chief executive officer Nkululeko Luthuli. The CEO resigned shortly after he was suspended on allegations of misuse of the Trust’s funds. The IFP has called for a full explanation on all these issues.

Sizwe Mchunu, Democratic Alliance leader in the Legislature, said his party also wanted answers. He pointed out that there was a drive to make the king’s farms self-sustaining, yet R50 million was still being allocated in the Royal Household budget to ensure their survival.

The meeting to discuss the Royal Household over-expenditue is expected within the next fortnight.

Last year’s over-expenditure.

Budget: Over-expenditure in excess of R6 million

R4,5 mln

Over-expenditure on the royal household budget.

R1,8 mln

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