MPs on the road again (and again)

Road travel has proved a rewarding experience for some MPs, according to a list of parliamentary travel expense claims tabled by Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille.

The document – a breakdown of claims made by MPs for motor vehicle journeys in the past financial year – shows several politicians were paid well over R200 000 for road trips from Parliament to their homes and back between April 1 2009 and March 31 this year.

One MP completed 50 road trips between Parliament and his constituency over the 12-month period.

Speaking to journalists, De Lille said she had battled for almost a year to obtain the travel information, which was released to her after she threatened legal action – by secretary to Parliament Zingile Dingani yesterday.

She said road travel claims often cost Parliament “more than double as much” as plane tickets.

“Do you have to drive down to your constituency so many times in one month? And why do you have to drive when in fact there is an airport?” De Lille asked.

She said a return flight between Cape Town and Johannesburg might cost between R5 000 and R6 000, but an MP’s decision to drive there and back costs the taxpayer about R12 000.

“There is nothing illegal here, but the problem is that the choice of whether the MP uses a plane or a car is left to the member.”

De Lille said some MPs were opting to drive “just so that they can claim more money than if they were to fly”.

MPs were allowed to claim 86 single plane tickets a year, and road travel was set off against those plane tickets.

“For the 2 786km return trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg, an MP would get about R4 a kilometre, although this fluctuates according to the petrol price. This means that you would receive a total of R11 144 in travel claims.”

In addition, because the drive was longer than 800km, MPs were entitled to claim R1 150 for an overnight stay.

De Lille called for a tightening of Parliament’s travel rules in respect of motor journey claims. She further called on political parties to monitor their members’ travel claims.

Who made the most trips?
According to the list, the MP who claimed for the highest number of trips, a total of 50, mainly between Cape Town and Gauteng, was Democratic Alliance MP Manie van Dyk, who was paid a total of R275 512.85 for his many hours behind the wheel.

ANC MP Ebrahim Sulliman was paid R242 335.81 for 33 car journeys, mainly between Cape Town and Danielskuil in Northern Cape. His ruling-party colleague, Hargreaves Magma, was paid R205 896.65 for 37 return trips to Upington.

Included on the list is ID MP John Gunda, who claimed R134 046.17 for his road trips to Upington and back.

De Lille said ID MPs were now required to get their motor vehicle travel claims signed off by her before they could be submitted.

In a statement later today, DA Chief Whip Ian Davidson, said the party had noted De Lille’s report, and he had called Van Dyk into his office and a preliminary explanation was sought.

“Dr Van Dyk has been advised that the matter has been referred to the Federal Legal Commission of the DA to which he will be invited to appear and to which he shall have to give a full explanation.

“That body will decide on the legal and ethical implications of the member’s actions and shall determine what action shall be taken,” Davidson said. 

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