DA questions govt's commitment to root out corruption when it spends more on 'SAA vanity project'

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Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.
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  • The DA criticised the ANC for giving bailouts to SOEs, but underfunding corruption-busting entities.
  • Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said these "choices are not optimal".
  • They were debating the DORA Bill in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The ANC-led government's commitment to rooting out corruption was questioned by the DA when it compared budget allocations to corruption-busting bodies with the R10.3 billion bailout to South African Airways (SAA).

The National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon debated the Division of Revenue Amendment (DORA) Bill.

DA MP Alf Lees said it was no secret the ANC had spent R30.8 billion on bailouts on the "SAA vanity project" since 2017.

Lees said:

The ANC and [Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan], in particular, are quick to condemn state capture and [state] the need to ensure that the perpetrators face the consequences of their malfeasance. But, the budget allocations to the institutions that are tasked with taking action indicate that the ANC is paying lip service to the eradication of state capture.

"A quick look at the budget allocation reveals that the ANC allocates a measly annual budget of R4.45 billion to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), but spends R10.3 billion on the SAA vanity project.

"The ANC allocates a paltry annual budget of R908 million to the Special Investigating Unit, but spends R10.3 billion on the SAA vanity project.

"The ANC allocates a tiny, annual budget of R191 million to the Asset Forfeiture Unit, but spends R10.3 billion on the SAA vanity project.

"The ANC allocates a minimal, annual budget of R348 million to IPID, but spends R10.3 billion on SAA."

READ | Tito Mboweni cuts from police, justice departments to fund SAA bailout

Responding to the debate, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said it took place against the backdrop of the country's major economic challenges, and there was a "significantly constrained fiscal outlook".

He said they had tried to achieve a "delicate balance".

He said they made a point in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) to be deliberately transparent by saying how much had gone into state-owned enterprises (SOEs) from 2013 to date, and how much was taken from other departments' budgets to achieve that.

"We have been transparent in those choices, and those choices have not been optimal. In this regard, I use the words 'tough love', precisely to signal this significant shift," he said.

ALSO READ | NPA needs more money from Treasury to fulfil its mandate

Earlier this month, the NPA warned the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services that it would not be able to fulfil its mandate if it was not sufficiently funded.

While President Cyril Ramaphosa has often said that combating corruption is one of the government's highest priorities, his administration hasn't put its money where its mouth is, with budget cuts to the entities tasked with fighting corruption.

In May, News24 reported that the NPA's budget for the 2021/22 financial year had been cut by R422 million.

ANC MPs on the committee often say they don't support budget cuts to these entities, but when it is time to vote for them in the National Assembly, the ANC invariably supports these budgets.

This was also the case on Tuesday when the ANC supported the DORA Bill.

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