Parliament must send message of modesty to public – Pravin Gordhan

2014-04-02 08:27

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Parliament will have to work within its budget and keep in mind the “modesty factor”, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has said.

This comes amid a proposal before Parliament that retired MPs could get up to 24 free flights a year for 10 years.

“I can indicate that I did discuss this matter with the leader of government business Deputy President [Kgalema] Motlanthe and the Speaker of the National Assembly Mr [Max] Sisulu yesterday,” Gordhan said during a briefing in Johannesburg yesterday on the SA Revenue Service’s provisional revenue collection figures.

“We’ve agreed that firstly, they will take note of the fact that the fiscus is not going to supply additional money. So we are not talking about finding additional funds from the fiscus to support whatever changes in benefits that Parliament might be discussing for themselves.”

Secondly, he and Sisulu agreed the message they wanted to communicate was that the government should live modestly.

“Modesty is an important message to communicate to the public,” the minister said.

“Thirdly, the parliamentary proposals, it would appear, when you get into the details, could potentially save money if there’s an internal rebalancing ... That’s the view of Parliament. Those numbers still need to be examined.”

Whatever the new arrangement was, it would have to be resolved after the May 7 general elections.

“I think we need to communicate to the public that we don’t have extra money to put into any of these exercises ... Parliament will have to work within the kind of budget it has,” Gordhan said.

“And that they will try to find a mechanism to meet all of their requirements, keeping in mind the modesty factor ... which I reported earlier on ... The fiscus is not going to provide any extra money.”

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that Parliament’s oversight authority recently recommended that retired MPs and their spouses get free plane tickets, at taxpayer’s expense, based on how many years they had served as MPs.

An MP who had served one term (five years) would get eight economy-class tickets a year for 10 years, 16 economy-class tickets a year for 10 years for two terms, and 24 business-class tickets a year for 10 years after serving three terms.

DA deputy chief whip Sandy Kalyan said the idea was to “level the playing field” between benefits granted to former MPs and those for former ministers and deputy ministers. Kalyan served on the task team that reviewed the travel policy.

The proposal is contained in the oversight authority’s 2013 annual report, tabled recently.

The oversight authority is the highest policy-making authority for parliamentarians and includes Sisulu and National Council of Provinces chairperson Mninwa Mahlangu.

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