Ministers spend 'recklessly' on car hire
Cape Town - Cabinet ministers' car hire bills are a "reckless" use of state funds, Democratic Alliance MP Ian Ollis said on Monday.
"Earlier this parliamentary term, I submitted a question to each member of the executive to determine how much had been spent on car hire for each minister and deputy minister since March 2010," he said.
The replies received so far indicated that most ministries had spent significant amounts to hire luxury vehicles to transport ministers and deputy ministers.
"Although a certain level of expenditure on car hire is quite acceptable, the DA regards the trend that has emerged from the information contained in these replies to be of deep concern.
"For a member of the executive to spend hundreds of thousands of rands worth of state funds on car hire raises serious questions about the degree of financial prudence being exercised by the [President Jacob] Zuma Cabinet," Ollis said.
The MP said it was also disappointing to note that some ministers had failed to supply the information requested, with the minister of labour simply ignoring important sections of the parliamentary question.
The four ministries that had supplied the information requested - public works, arts and culture, mineral resources, and trade and industry - had spent R865 211 on car hire since March 2010, with public works alone spending R436 911.
"These are significant numbers and illustrate reckless use of state resources," he said.
Hiring a C180 class Mercedes-Benz cost between R700 and R900 a day.
"Racking up a car hire bill in excess of R200 000 therefore suggests that the relevant Cabinet members are hiring cars on at least a weekly basis, and that luxury cars are being hired at exorbitant rates."
The arts and culture ministry spent R118 083, mineral resources R251 034, and trade and industry R59 183.
The labour ministry rented cars on 12 occasions, but failed to indicate the total cost, and the economic development ministry failed to answer the question.
Ollis said that in the DA-run Western Cape, the ministerial handbook had been rewritten to curb excessive spending on items such as car hire and the purchase of luxury cars.
This stood in stark contrast to the reluctance with which the updating of the national ministerial handbook had been managed, he claimed.
"Despite assertions by Minister of Public Service and Administration Richard Baloyi that amendments to the national handbook would be made public before the [Soccer] World Cup, the Zuma government continues to stall on the release of the changes."
Ollis said he would submit follow-up questions to each minister to request additional details concerning their and their deputy's car hire spending, such as why greater use was not made of vehicles from the government fleet.
In addition, he would write to Zuma to ask for an explanation for the delay in releasing the amendments to the ministerial handbook, and to determine when these amendments would be made public.