Parly explains travel allowances

2010-01-22 20:05

Cape Town - Parliament has acted to justify the travel allowances it pays MPs, following criticism earlier this week from Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille, who says some members may be using them to supplement their income to the tune of R40 000 a month.

In a statement issued on Friday, Parliamentary Communication Services said MPs were entitled to 86 single domestic airline journeys a year in order to carry out their duties.

"According to Parliament's current rules on travel, agreed to by multi-party structures in Parliament, MPs are entitled to 86 single domestic airline journeys per financial year, at the expense of Parliament.

"These air journeys may be offset or exchanged for travel by road, train or bus. In the case of journeys by motor vehicle, MPs are reimbursed for the full cost of the journey via the shortest route, at the higher Automobile Association rate or the government rate per kilometre.

"The distance for which claims are lodged cannot exceed the distance between Cape Town and an MP's registered home or constituency base," it said.

MPs 'driving around'

De Lille has questioned MPs being allowed to exchange their air tickets for road travel expenses, saying she had heard some members were using this to supplement their incomes by R30 000 to R40 000 a month.

In a media statement in November last year, De Lille said she was "extremely concerned" that some MPs were "often driving across the country even when there is an airport at their destination, just so that they can claim more money than if they were to fly".

Road travel was set against the 86 single plane tickets MPs were allowed each year, meaning MPs were reimbursed in cash for a plane ticket provided by Parliament.

"If you drive to Johannesburg and back you lose two single plane tickets, but the cost to Parliament for your trip is triple as much as if you fly," De Lille said at the time.

For the 2 786km return trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg, an MP would get, at R3.69 a kilometre, a total of R10 280.34 in travel claims.

In addition to this, because the drive to Johannesburg was over 800km, the MP was entitled to claim R1 150 for an overnight stay on the way to Johannesburg and another R1 150 on the way back.

"Add this R2 300 for accommodation to the R10 305 and you get R12 580.34 compared to Parliament’s going rate of R4 354 for a return ticket to Johannesburg," De Lille said at the time.

Gordhan questioned

On Wednesday this week, the ID leader announced she had submitted a parliamentary question to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, requesting a detailed breakdown of the financial cost to Parliament of MPs' travel and accommodation claims over the past two financial years.

De Lille sent a similar request to the Speaker last year, but was told she should approach Parliament's Joint Rules Committee if she wanted answers.

In its statement on Friday, Parliamentary Communication Services said comparing the costs of motor vehicle journeys with air travel journeys was "not entirely an accurate comparison".

This was because "even if MPs travel by air, Parliament pays the costs of their transport to and from airports".

MPs' travel provisions were under continuous review by Parliament's various multi-party governance structures.

"Members of Parliament come from all parts of the country and are allocated constituencies across the length and breadth of South Africa.

"Some of these constituencies are in remote areas, far from an airport, and many are in provinces other than the Western Cape - where the Houses of Parliament are located in Cape Town - and where MPs are required to be present to carry out Parliament's constitutional function of lawmaking," it said.