Eastern Cape speaker slashes millions off SOPA budget

Helen Sauls August, speaker of the Eastern Cape legislature. (Supplied, Eastern Cape Govt)
Helen Sauls August, speaker of the Eastern Cape legislature. (Supplied, Eastern Cape Govt)

In her first year in office, Eastern Cape speaker Helen Sauls-August has drastically slashed the budget for the State of the Province Address (SOPA) from as much as R5m to R700 000. 

Sauls-August announced this during a media briefing in Bisho on Thursday

In the past, the Eastern Cape's SOPA was hosted at venues outside its parliamentary chambers.  

But, Sauls-August said: "The chamber has shown its capacity to host big audiences at the swearing-in ceremony and we have no doubt that we will be able to host the premier in delivering the State of the Province Address."

The annual SOPA budget usually included:

  • a marquee at R1.4m;
  • catering at R1.2m; 
  • ablution facilities at R210 000;
  • mobile fridges at a cost R40 000;
  • a standby generator at R20 000; 
  • screens costing R86 000 and 
  • invitation cards at R20 000

The speaker said it was a costly exercise for the legislature, which needed a review in line with the national spirit of cost cutting and intense public participation programmes and oversight work.

"The executive authority of the legislature has decided that all official openings of the legislature will no longer be held outside the Raymond Mhlaba Chamber for the duration of the 6th legislature.  There will be a drastic reduction in the number of guests invited to attend the session," she said. 

Guests invited to the first sitting will be reduced from 1 200 to 650, she added.

Catering costs have been cut down from a three-course meal to light snacks and the printing of invitations, which was previously outsourced, will be done internally.

The Eastern Cape legislature expects to save R12.5m over the five-year period.

This comes as South African premiers heed calls to cut costs. In KwaZulu-Natal, Premier Sihle Zikalala reduced the guest list at his inauguration to 200, including members of the media. 

Northern Cape premier Zamani Saul has opted to sell a fleet of cars for his Cabinet to buy ambulances for the province instead.

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