Opposition rejects Mbete's R37m budget

2017-05-30 19:07
Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete. (Denis Farrell, AP, file)

Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete. (Denis Farrell, AP, file)

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Cape Town - Opposition parties have rejected National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete's R37m budget amid a cash crunch that has seen Parliament staff receive a 0% wage increase this year.

"I put it to you, Speaker, that Parliament is being reduced to an employment agency for Luthuli House," DA MP Mike Waters said during the four-hour debate on the budget for the Speaker’s office.

"While on the subject of staff, your office has 42 staff members, while member support services has only 19,” he told the National Assembly.

Mbete announced this week that Parliament’s support staff would receive no increases this financial year due to cost-cutting.

Waters said it was astonishing what her staff got paid.

“The head of your office earns over R1.6m [per annum] and your three special advisors earn nearly R1.6m each."

She had had five communications managers, each earning just over R1m, he claimed.

"It is no wonder that you can’t afford to pay the rank and file staff increases this year," he said.

Parliament staff and members of trade union Nehawu applauded in the gallery while Waters spoke.

Waters accused Mbete of trying to dodge accountability about the financial management of Parliament to the joint standing committee.

'Corrupt' Mgidlana must step down

EFF Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu said the party rejected Mbete's budget.

"We do not trust the politicians and the officials and processes in place to hold Parliament accountable in ensuring the finances are managed," Shivambu said.

Parliament needed an oversight overhaul. They had learned through the media that money was "siphoned off somewhere else," he said.

Shivambu criticised Parliament's current secretary Gengezi Mgidlana, after media reports this year that he irregularly spent money on travel and a bursary.

"We could see from far that this guy is corrupt. He is not a proper candidate to become the secretary of Parliament. He is a law unto himself and does what he pleases."

Mbete was protecting Mgidlana, enabling him to take "unauthorised international trips and give himself bursaries," Shivambu alleged.

He blamed the non-partisan institutions that oversaw Parliament's money, saying they were not meeting regularly. He called on Mgidlana to step down.

DA should 'look in the mirror'

ANC MP Vincent Smith rebuffed Waters’ claims about Parliament being an employment agency for party headquarters.

He cited a number of former DA MPs who were appointed to administrative legislature positions in Cape Town and elsewhere in the Western Cape after leaving Parliament.

"You don't criticise without looking in the mirror," Smith said.

He criticised the DA for the way it allegedly treated its black MPs and Western Cape premier Helen Zille for her tweets about colonialism.

Smith called the EFF's rejection of the budget "infantile" and said the party should instead do more to influence the budget.

In her reply, Mbete thanked all members for the "robust" debate. She said she only had one communications manager.

"Maybe we can follow up with Honourable Waters to find out who these other four are. I don't know who they are," she said to laughter from the ANC caucus.

She admitted they did not want a situation where staff got no increases.

"We have requested the management to find money. We have also instructed the secretary to Parliament to engage national Treasury, which he is doing."

The matter about armed soldiers deployed to the State of the Nation Address is currently before the court. Mbete said Parliament was never asked to agree to their presence.

Read more on:    da  |  eff  |  mike waters  |  baleka mbete  |  floyd ­shivambu  |  parliament

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