RTI training deaths: alarm at soaring inquiry costs

2013-11-19 00:00

THE cost of the commission of inquiry into the deaths of eight Road Traffic Inspectorate recruits has almost tripled from its original budget, it emerged as the inquiry resumed yesterday.

The Provincial Treasury initially allocated the commission a budget of R5,5 million, and it was increased to R7,6 million in June.

The total costs incurred by the commission totalled R8,5 million as of September.

A further R5,7 million will be allocated to the commission, bringing its total costs thus far to R14,2 million.

The total amount excluded money spent by the Health and Transport departments in legal fees for participating in the commission.

This emerged in responses from Premier Senzo Mchunu to questions in the legislature asked by DA provincial transport spokesperson Radley Keys.

The commission, headed by advocate Thandi Norman, was first announced by former premier Zweli Mkhize in February following the deaths of eight Traffic Road Inspectorate recruits in Pietermaritzburg in December.

It was initially scheduled to conduct its work between March and August 2013, but it was given an extension until March 30, 2014.

Mchunu said the commission had been unable to complete its work within its time frame.

“At the end of the original period the Department of Transport was in the process of presenting its case, to be followed by Health Department,” Mchunu said.

“Due to the potential liability of these departments it became necessary to extend the original period to provide for these departments to have their version of the events considered by the commission.”

The premier also said the costs of the commission would be closely monitored so that they do not exceed the R14,2 million approved by Treasury.

A breakdown of the costs incurred as at September show that R78 808 was spent on hiring a venue to hold hearings, R324 382 on transcription services, R424 164 on audio visual services and R494 962 on catering.

A total of R5,5 million was spent on the costs of the commissioners, R70 570 on salaries of the commission’s staff and R492 570 on the commission’s communication and media plan.

Of the additional R5,7 million, R186 626 wil be spent on audio-visual services, R217 778 catering and R674 684 on salaries of support staff.

Keys said while the commission was necessary, the DA regarded some of the costs as exorbitant.

“We question the rationale presented by the premier in justifying these costs,” he said.

But, Mchunu’s spokesperson Ndabezinhle Sibiya said the government was of the view that the commission of inquiry should be allowed to carry out its responsibilities without any interference or influence.

He said it was important to provide this information to ensure transparency and openness.

“The provincial government is providing the necessary support to the commission in order to enable the commission to uncover the truth.”

The commission has until March 2014 to present Mchunu with a final report, which will be forwarded to the KZN Legislature for debate.

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