New MPs informed of perks

2014-06-04 00:00

MEMBERS of Parliament can claim up to R44 000 a year to park their car at the airport and they are entitled to 43 return flights on economy class a year.

Spouses and companions enjoy the same number of flights, plus up to 30 return trips a year for children, depending on their age.

These are among the perks and allowances enjoyed by the 400 members of the National Assembly and 90 delegates of the National Council Of Provinces, many of whom are new to Parliament this year.

Members who opt to travel by car instead of by air are also reimbursed, but trips are curtailed to 10 a year.

If a journey is over 800 km, they can stay in a hotel overnight, but this is capped at R1 850 for dinner, bed and breakfast.

Members whose daily commute is over 30 km a return trip are entitled to claim petrol (at AA rates). Travel to and from the airport is also reimbursed.

These privileges, outlined in the Facilities Handbook of the 5th Democratic Parliament, were presented to new MPs during the start of a five-day orientation programme that has been delicately termed “on-boarding training”.

Here, members learn about the ins and outs of the complex job that lies ahead, and also the rules and regulations governing Parliament. Cautioning against the over-use of “expensive” parking at the airport, manager of Members Facilities, Linda Harper, urged MPs “not to leave their vehicles for extended periods of time, especially over recess”.

Kickstarting the sessions on a serious note in the Old Assembly, the chairperson of the NCOP, Thandi Modise, reminded “honourable members” of their duty as public representatives, and their need to rise above narrow party interests.

“We are not here to serve the interests of one voting section of the population, but of all the people of SA … MPs need to understand the separation of powers, and the concept of holding the executive to account,” she said.

Later, Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, told MPs to “remember that we are people of SA sent by ordinary South Africans to come here and do a job”.

“Although from different political parties, the most important people are the people outside. The important thing is to know those people are our bosses, not the other way around.”

A flurry of hands shot up during question time, including that of the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) Floyd Shivambu, who complained that proceedings had started late and that the session by parliamentary secretary Michael Coetzee was “not coherent”.

During tea break, Shivambu said there had been a number of hiccups that morning, but he was willing to “give things a start”.

The fact that all the material and talks had been in English was a “serious indictment against Parliament”, he added.

Stands were placed outside with information about Parliament and the array of services.

Indicating how much travel forms part of the life of MPs, there was a British Airways Executive Club stall with a join-up offer of silver membership, and an SAA Voyager stall with an offer of Gold status.

The final day of the programme takes place on Friday.

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