Speaker defends perks proposed for MPLs

2010-08-20 00:00

FOLLOWING criticism from opposition parties and civil society, the KZN Legislature yesterday defended its decision to offer R20 000 bursaries to MPLs, provide drivers to elderly and ailing MPLs and spend R500 000 on a gymnasium for them.

Addressing the legislature yesterday, Deputy Speaker Mtholephi Mthimkhulu said the proposed measures were intensely debated in the sub-committee, with the active participation of all parties.

Mthimkhulu said Democratic Alliance chief whip Radley Keys, who issued press statements rejecting the new measures, “personally made invaluable contributions to the policy to provide study assistance to MPLs and the policy is better for his contributions”.

“It was only … when the policies were approved that Mr Keys indicated that the DA would not support it …” he said.

Mthimkhulu also rejected the figures cited in the press of the possible cost of the bursary scheme “as incorrect and way off the mark”.

“There is a capacity-building programme funded by the European Union where the skills of members are being sharpened. It had always been our understanding that not all members will take up the opportunity of the study assistance as most are now registered for these programmes …

“The assertion that 80 members will suddenly put in application for R20 000 each is therefore an operational impossibility. At the most, the legislature is likely to only receive application for … 15 members per annum out of 69 eligible for the assistance.”

Turning to the provision of assistants to ailing members, he said the parties and the speaker’s office will b carefully scrutinise the requests and then the legislature will apply to the provincial Treasury for assistance.

As for the R500 000 gymnasium, Mthimkhulu pointed out that the amount was provided to the Members’ Wellness Programme (MWP) and not for the gym per se.

“The KZN Legislature management recognises that problems of a personal nature can have an adverse effect on members’ well-being and job performance … MWP services address life issues associated with such conditions as substance abuse, chronic illness, redundancy, stress, depression … Persons who have such problems are encouraged to seek advice from the MWP officer,” he said.

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