Minister ignorant over 'astronomical' fees

2011-11-04 17:53

Cape Town - When Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson booked into a Sandton luxury guesthouse for 28 days, she had not "wildly imagined" it would cost taxpayers R420 000.

In an attempt to "wholly lay to rest" a storm over the size of the bill, she said on Friday she had not known at the time how much it was.

"After my parliamentary reply caused a storm, especially about the cost of around R420 000 spent on the controversial guesthouse - hitherto unbeknown to me - I inquired from my officials what had led them to spend such an obscene amount of money on an ordinary guesthouse," the minister told reporters in Cape Town.

The officials explained that the guesthouse had been block-booked by a foreign company for the duration of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and they had to pay an "inflated amount" to secure it.

Ministers do not approve accommodation

"I did not know the department was paying the guest house an astronomical amount of money, especially after I had asked that I be booked in a guesthouse to avoid the high cost of a hotel," the minister said.

"Needless to say, ministers do not approve accommodation."

Joemat-Pettersson explained that her foot had been in a plaster cast at the time, and she was dependent on her female bodyguard because she could only move around on either crutches or in a wheelchair.

"There was no way in which I would have wildly imagined that the guesthouse was so expensive. I thought that by moving into a guesthouse, it would be more [sic] cheaper than a hotel," she said.

"My foot was in a cast, and at one stage I couldn't move. I was in a wheelchair. My protector had to help me in and out of the bath, and some of the other things.

Not a lesbian

"And please, I do not have a husband, so my protector had to help me. And I'm also not a lesbian," she said, laughing loudly.

Asked who the official was who took the decision to book her and her bodyguards into the R15 000 a night establishment, Joemat-Pettersson referred the question to her director general, Langa Zita.

"We have a sense of who the official is, but... the matter is under investigation," he responded.

Joemat-Pettersson, who assumed office in May 2009, said an investigation was also underway to establish how incorrect information on her hotel stays was included in a written reply to parliamentary question, tabled at Parliament last month.

She signed off the reply.

"I signed off on the parliamentary reply after reading it. A human error occurred for which I apologise and from which we have all learnt."

Dignity impaired

Asked if she thought there might have been a deliberate attempt by staff to "paint her in a bad light", Joemat-Pettersson said she did not blame her officials.

"If they acted maliciously, I believe that their malicious intent will be addressed. I have requested the director general to take the necessary disciplinary processes."

She said her dignity had been impaired and her character impugned by "opportunists" who sought to score "cheap political points" about her hotel accommodation.

She had been cast as an extravagant minister who "willy-nilly splurges on luxury hotels using taxpayers' money".

Public works responsible

Joemat-Pettersson said her accommodation was the responsibility of the department of public works.

"The department of public works is entirely responsible for any minister's accommodation. They find you a house, furnish it and provide [all other household services]."

In what she called a "brief background about my accommodation", Joemat-Pettersson gave details of a two-year-long battle she had waged with public works to either provide her with a house or repair the one she was living in.

On one occasion, she had to sleep in her car with her two minor children while officials from her department frantically sought accommodation for them.

"When they eventually found a room for me, my children, the nanny and I had to share a bed in one room," she said.

The Democratic Alliance said Joemat-Pettersson's effort to set the record straight had produced more questions than answers. "Instead of coming clean... about her vast hotel bill and numerous anomalies such as why two hotels were often booked for the minister at one time, [she] has simply sought to shift the blame to staff in her department and public works," DA MP Lourie Bosman said in a statement.

The only person who could now set the record straight on the minister's hotel spending was the public protector, he said.

The DA has called on Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate the matter.

  • Lyndatjie - 2011-11-04 17:59

    You are JOKING! Ignorance is NOT a defence you stupid twit! Staying in luxury costs money - or is basic economics 101 a complete surprise to you? What on earth are you doing in that position? I have NO words!

      david.streicher - 2011-11-04 18:22

      they are ignorant about many things. spending the tax payers hard-earned money is not one of them.

      Dirk - 2011-11-04 18:23

      Comrade Joemat- Lies, lies and more lies.

      Win - 2011-11-04 18:24

      Yes Lyndatjie, how right you are. A Minister better be aware of EVERYTHING that goes on around her or him, and if they are not, they are not fit for the job and should be fired forthwith. The excuse of "I didn't know ..." is fine for you and me, but not for our leaders. And in 80% of cases, it's just lies, i.e. they know very well but hope they won't be caught out. And mostly that works .. and if it doesn't, there are so many clever ANC-tricks waiting to obfuscate and squash the whole thing, and then they get together and laugh at us.

      Kate - 2011-11-04 18:54

      Just a thought. If Government are prepared to pay R15k a day for accommodation. What the hell does she earn

      Edmund - 2011-11-04 19:05

      @Kate Exactly like the old saying.. easy come.. easy go. I wouldn't be surprised if they stole it and inflated a few bills to hide their tracks!

      Kate - 2011-11-04 19:30

      You have a point Edmund

      steve.dupreez - 2011-11-05 08:29

      In my opinion mininster's should authorise this spending prior to moving into hotels and "guesthouses". Then they can not claim stupidity when confronted with the facts.

      Vuyo - 2011-11-05 20:07

      And the name of this guest house? Anyone? Or the name of the owner? R15 Grand ones per day should buy a hell of a lot of oppulence? Is she so used to this type of extravagant living that she had no idea that all those scatter cushions come at a price?

      Esther - 2011-11-06 18:58

      To think - not many years ago it was part of their culture (which is used as an excuse whenever it suit the b@#$%&ds) to sleep on reed mats on the floor

  • Chris - 2011-11-04 18:03

    The fact that she or her staff didn't even bother to check what it would cost speaks volumes all by itself. These people are so far removed from normal people with their rock-star lifestyle, it's a frigging joke

      Vusi - 2011-11-04 18:14

      I fully agree Chris. Anyone given any position in the ANC thinks it comes with a credit card with no limits. The services in our whole country is going to the dogs and they spend R15,000 on a night in a guest house? The divide between rich and poor has never been greater than in present times.

      david.streicher - 2011-11-04 18:26

      they are not rich. it's our money they are wasting.

      Servaas - 2011-11-04 18:53

      @Vusi: Spot on Brother!

      Shadho - 2011-11-04 18:56

      Chris all the members of staff at DAFF think they are GOD's. No wonder with a Minister like her setting the example. NO wonder they like they are and the department is in a state of utter shambolic chaos and non functional!!! Their biggest excuse is they have NO money, No staff, NO resources etc. In fact they cant even pay certain service providers bills!!!!. Yet she lives like a Queen for so long??

      Gaanake - 2011-11-04 20:25

      While not in anyway condoning the R420,000 mispent by the Minister, let's not forget the millions of corrupt money that is given in false tenders to the well-connected comrades. They live the high life of "shushï", drive the most expensive wheels, attend weddings that cost millions of Rands in the world's most exotic places while their ignorant supporters continue to live in unimaginable horrible conditions. Is there nobody with any concience anymore in the powers that be?

  • Shirley - 2011-11-04 18:05

    A bloody expensive error! Anything to do with the public protectors offices is dodgy at best. Sounds like a lot of blame shifting. What a privalged life these ministers lead. How many starving people could that money have fed????? Its all dripping with grrrrravy.

  • Wouter - 2011-11-04 18:08

    With BS like this one can clearly see that the communist manifesto went bye-bye a long time ago in the ANC...hypocrites.

  • Kate - 2011-11-04 18:10

    R15K a day/ F***ing ridiculous. The Majority of SA do not even earn that in a year !! All I can say is that she is bloody thief of tax payers money. Would she have paid this rate if she was paying out of her own pocket. THE ANSWER WOULD BE HELL NO !! Please investigate and fire her

      Rina - 2011-11-04 19:55

      Fire her! Never. The best they could do is suspend her for 10 years on full pay and then drop the case. We will never win.

  • Ralph - 2011-11-04 18:12

    She must be made to pay back. Who books into a guesthouse without knowing what it is going to cost? So she blames her staff. Perhaps she went to the same school as Malema. Chances are she won't be disciplined.

  • Nicholas - 2011-11-04 18:12

    This is what happens when you get used to spending other peoples money, you become "ignorant"

  • mastersvoice - 2011-11-04 18:15

    So, in one statement she admits to abusing tax-payers' money and insults gay women at the same time.

      stefan.grundlingh - 2011-11-04 19:57

      She insulted the whole gay community, and laughing loudly about it shows just adds to the insult! She would probably not laugh if this is taken to the Equality Court!

  • Silvana - 2011-11-04 18:16

    Typical! No one takes responsibility. Don't you check the expenditure of your department? No wonder there's never any money to run this country efficciently. She didn't know! BS!

  • Adam - 2011-11-04 18:17

    I read several articles before the world cup where businesses we instructing senior staff (traveling) not do book flights or hotels to conduct business during the world cup period. Electronic conferences by way of skype and other means needed to be employed to avoid the exorbitant costs of air travel and accommodation during this period. I guess its too much to ask Government to think the same way, after all they are burning up tax payers money and not company profits so give a toss.

  • Pur - 2011-11-04 18:33

    Its time all ministers were given a flat rate allowance and if they overspend on it the balance comes straight from their own salaries. Put an end to this total waster of our money now!

      Martin - 2011-11-04 18:46

      They would be bankrupt buy lunch on the 1st of every month!!!

  • craig.munn - 2011-11-04 18:34

    Send them to prison like the Pakistani Cricketers!

  • Kalai - 2011-11-04 18:36

    i go to work everyday and pay tax. i have never stayed in a R15 000 a day guest house. i've never even paid that amount for a holiday. i think she should pay the bill herself.

  • Burtfred - 2011-11-04 18:36

    Capitalist Commie, just like her comrades Erwin, Kasrils, Patel, Davies, Nzimande, Metcalfe, Cronin, Mantashe, Carrim, etc. Tina, your time is up. Resign and save face, or wait for the revolutionary poor and exhausted to come after you, thief. Please remember, just like angels, there is no place in heaven for fallen communists.

  • Rodney - 2011-11-04 18:39

    what kind of a guesthouse charges R15000 per night ? Eish

      Kate - 2011-11-04 18:48

      One that is laughing all the way to the bank singing "I screwed you"

      Adam - 2011-11-04 20:16

      One that cancels a world cup visitors stay in favour of a far higher fee. Why else?

  • Shadho - 2011-11-04 18:40

    Well done again Lourie for exposing this Excuse for a Minister. Do NOT let her and her department get away with this. I sore foot puts you in a wheelchair??? BTW Madam Minister.If you were that ill why were you not accompanied by a qualified nurse or medical carer?? Hahah!! keep trying Madam Minister, you are a thief, a fraud and a DISGRACE. Therefore Madam Minister set the example to your colleagues and do the honorable thing and resign or step down as Minister of DAFF. DAFF is in a total and utter shambolic state under your watch to say the least and yet you allow this to occur??? Maybe after the next election you will get your Job back!!! Ohhh Langa Zita will sort it out huh...hmmm what happened to Mono Mashaba?? He is the so called "Bossman" in the office of the DG and yes you use him as well as your side kick.....hmmmmm...the plot thickens.... Well done again Lourie and DA...make sure the PP deals with this matter extremely urgently and expediently!!! Btw Is this how members of the Communist party operate??

      Albert - 2011-11-05 09:00

      Sore foot!!!! When you become to big for your shoes,you tend to develope "liddorings" my dom antie.

  • Jeffrey - 2011-11-04 18:40

    "She said her dignity had been impaired and her character impugned by "opportunists" who sought to score "cheap political points" about her hotel accommodation." No, sweetie pie. The opposition are doing their job in trying to hold you accountable for our money that you so freely spend.

  • David - 2011-11-04 18:41

    As a cabinet minister she should be responsible enough to find out what her lifestyle habits cost taxpayers. She should be fired or resign,and refund the money. She is another disgrace to Zuma's cabinet.

  • Jerhone - 2011-11-04 18:43

    Hang the wasteful bitch

  • Shoe - 2011-11-04 18:46

    If the broom fits, grab it and fly, Bwitch with a messed up personal life now messing up public space and purse!!!

  • Sheik - 2011-11-04 18:48

    It's the same as the tax deptment, you can't plead ignorance. You must know the prices between the "Cape Flats" and "Sandton" and trying to tell me any different would require me to be as thick as the people in government who gave to your job.

  • mikeangell61 - 2011-11-04 18:54

    Minister of What!!Pumpkin head.Eish,ITS NOT ME?? Famous words.

  • Smell - 2011-11-04 18:55

    And I'm also not a lesbian," she said, laughing loudly. That comment and her laughter smells of homophobia - the subject of being a lesbian is certainly not funny in this context. In civilized countries a flippant comment like that about race, religion of sexual orientation may well spell the end of a politician's career. But, then again, this clueless individual is a member of South Africa's government.

  • Myth - 2011-11-04 18:56

    That bill needs investigating. It's way too much, even at Europe standards. If there is no link between the owner and the minister or some other official responsible for settling the bill; and if the minister was there for work and not for the World Cup, then some action needs to be taken against the owner. It sounds like an extra zero has been added to the bill.

  • Barry - 2011-11-04 18:59

    I wonder if Juju owns the B&B ?

  • Ariado - 2011-11-04 19:00

    R15000 a night! That is a good guest house business to run.

  • Keith - 2011-11-04 19:04

    No way, I feel gutted. How can someone do this to others? I don't want to pay for this. Please adjust my taxed appropriately. I DO NOT want to pay for this. It makes me feel nauseous. What is wrong with us people? What can't we do something about this? Why were we not consulted? This shows the difference between 'legal' and 'moral'. This is IMMORAL but, it appears, "legal". Why can't she pay for our stays as well??????

  • pws69 - 2011-11-04 19:06

    The headline could have just stopped at "MInister ignorant". About sums up every single ANC cadre.

      Leon - 2011-11-06 10:23

      cun ts

  • johanvvuuren - 2011-11-04 19:18

    I'm going to stop reading news - it makes me either furious or sad.

  • Sharon - 2011-11-04 19:22

    Its amazing how they can spend tax payers money witthout a problem. But let you owe tax money it is the end of the world for the man on the street that actually works!!!!

  • Ahmed - 2011-11-04 19:22

    Rubbish. Lies.

  • j.c.s.mailbox - 2011-11-04 19:33

    Yes we are "blessed" with these people who dont care a damm about expenditure and comming up with the most feeble excuses. And for those people who want to peel me like a potato: Just keep in mind i dont mentioned anything about skin colour for incase you want to ride the racist horse again. And for those who want to blame me for being hypocritical: I am not quilty of wasting tax money at all by any means.

  • stefan.grundlingh - 2011-11-04 19:49

    A statement like "I'm also not a lesbian," is insensitive and totaly inappropriate for a minister!

  • ec.van.niekerk - 2011-11-04 20:13

    how stupid do you have to be ... but she is probably one of Zuma "good woman"

  • Koos - 2011-11-04 22:14

    1 "Needless to say, ministers do not approve accommodation. 2. "I signed off on the parliamentary reply after reading it. A human error occurred for which I apologise and from which we have all learnt." And now I know why I always doubted you in charge of any department. Get to know what's happening in your department. Please. Use budgets for every trip and limit expenditure.

  • deon.lotz - 2011-11-04 22:47

    yeah right now it's - i did not know lol

  • Elizabeth - 2011-11-04 23:07

    How convenient! Surely any logical, mature, educated individual finds out about costs before venturing on in life blindly? I watched the news clip on TV. Good ploy to use humor as a tactic to sugar coat her deviousness! It's an absolute disgrace. The few taxpayers that work their butts off should start holding our wonderful government members accountable. If they are found guilty of fraud and corruption, get rid of them, there are plenty more competent, honest, hard working individuals!! who

  • MaxOdin.SA - 2011-11-05 02:06

    A while ago the government released a statement that read alon the lines "ignorance of the law is not an excuse, You will be prosecuted". This was in regards to late E-filing (taxes). so i would like to modify that and say ignorance about what is spent in your department is not an excuse. Are you not the supreme head of the department? does the buck not stop with you? Does your financial department not clear expenditure with you? Ie. Madam your stay is going to cost R???? please sign the release form? just wondering how government actually operates, or do you all just hand your financial departments blank cheques?

  • gavinb2 - 2011-11-05 02:58

    The no. of ignorant ministers we have really scares me;. You wonder how they run a country.

  • Roy - 2011-11-05 06:17

    And then she,her children and her maid spent the night in her car. Let's not forget the guard,where did she sleep,in a tent outside the car? A pathetic reason for spending taxpayers money but can we blame ant ANC for being so corrupt.

  • Kevin - 2011-11-05 06:23

    Your resignation is owed to the taxpayer. Save the taxpayer . Get rid of the cause.

  • Kevin - 2011-11-05 08:27

    Yeah ,Yeah , unfortunately as a so called minister (Hee Hee) you are actually responsible for what you do . Are you sure said guesthouse does not belong to your Aunty . Please name and shame the guesthouse who charged so much . So called minister , resign with immediate effect. It is the right thing to do . In any other country in the worls the person would be tried and would certainly have to pay back the money.

  • Kevin - 2011-11-05 08:35

    I wonder if this is not a family B+B who was helped out. No B+B charges 15k a day . I smell a rat. Hawks like rats . Please respond Hawks . Somewhere ,someone has ripped the poor innocent taxpayer off again. VOTE FOR A POLITICAL PARTY THAT REDUCES TAX AND FIGHTS CORRUPTION

  • Koos - 2011-11-05 09:10

    The word is ignorant - that means she's not capable of doing the job as well.

  • John - 2011-11-05 09:12

    If this is the caliber of people we have in government (and I have to assume they are the best the country can offer) Then I think we'd better all pack for Oz and leave them to enjoy their new Zim.

  • Neil - 2011-11-05 10:19

    these idiots need to realise that their credit cards have limits,not Targets.Lets hope the PP does her job on this one asap.

  • Charles - 2011-11-05 11:15

    I think South Africans must learn that political leaders in Government are there to ensure that the community of the country is correctly serviced.Other officials in government assist the leaders with other matters like this accomodation. They are the ones to make sure that the state funds are well managed and used accordingly, unfortunately they are the ones to be watched carefully because they end up misleading the political leaders.

  • Louis - 2011-11-05 11:32

    How stupid can you be? Does she actually think we will believe that she slept in her car?

  • Gail - 2011-11-05 11:42

    I am notattempting to be an apologist here for the ruling party politicians but wush to point out that many of them as well as what their followers believe is that all white people actually own or were given houses/farms etc with infrastructure for nothing. Schooling is a case in point. My domestic who has been with me for 22 years was horrified to hear that my son's last year of school fees would cost me R12,000 for the year and that this did not include other monies which as a single parent I would have to find for his extra mural activities. This was not a Private school but a very well known Model C school. Since my husband had been killed a year earlier I actually bartered a rubber duck for that last year of his schooling. It is important that we talk to the ordinary African people about things like economics and how each petrol increase inmpacts cost of everything and every salary increase demunded by Unions cost those in other industries more and creates a vicious cycle. Ignorance is exploited by the pwer hungry to stir hatred and create false impressions among the poor voters who don't realise they also pay taxes in form of VAT, all of which is mismanaged and wasted. I'm still gobsmacked about a R12million wedding Malema attended in Mauritius. WHO in their right minds spends that kind of money on a wedding. Top Billing weddings set a bad example. Let's get real people.

  • David - 2011-11-05 13:09

    We have to travel occasionally for the company I work for. Our travel agent always sends us the rates for all the travel arrangements to get approval before firm booking. We have to account for all expenditure on our trips. This is normal procedure in all the companys I know. I can imagine what my boss would say if my excuse was that "I didn't know that it would be that expensive".