King's finances kept private

2007-11-19 00:00

Overspending and budgeting within the royal household remains sensitive, so much so that the Finance portfolio committee conducting mid-term expenditure reviews went into a private sitting on Friday to find resolution.

The meeting started off as an open hearing with head of the Royal Household, Dr Vusi Shongwe, once more in the hot seat. With projected over-expenditure in the region of R4 million, Shongwe, as he has done in the past, explained how he is caught between a rock and a hard place.

How can an ordinary subject dictate to the king how many people he can take in an entourage, when there are no protocols in place? he asked.

“I'm caught in the middle here. On the one hand there are government prescripts, on the other there are cultural prescripts. There seems to be no marriage of the two. I'm either getting bashed for one or for the other and never seem to be able to please both.”

Shongwe added that he felt let down by the portfolio committee, the Premier's Office and the Department of Finance and Economic Affairs, which are supposed to help him. There was to be assistance with the retrenchment of staff and when he advertised for the post of a chief financial officer, he was told not to proceed.

Committee member Yusuf Bhamjee asked what the various departments are doing to apply their minds to resolve this issue. At this point head of Treasury, Sipho Shabalala, walked over to the legislature's legal team for a consultation. Committee chair Belinda Scott then asked for the matter to go to a closed sitting.

The IFP felt the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) called for the public accounting of how taxpayers' money is spent and that the meeting should be open.

The ACDP's Jo-Anne Downs said she is opposed to closed meetings, “but if it means getting answers, I dont mind”.

The proceedings then moved into another committee room.

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