Cutting the bling for ministers: Say goodbye to flashy cars and luxury travel

Finance minister Tito Mboweni at the press conference before he delivers his 2019 budget speech in Parliament on February 20, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images)
Finance minister Tito Mboweni at the press conference before he delivers his 2019 budget speech in Parliament on February 20, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images)

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni appears to be making inroads in his campaign to have ministers' belts tightened and get used to slim fringe benefits.

Mboweni has been outspoken on the need for government to cut costs by cutting the size of the Cabinet and spending less on ministers' perks like vehicles and air travel among others.

The Sunday Times reports on Sunday that the revised ministerial handbook which was approved during a Cabinet lekgotla earlier this week might just be something that will put a smile on Mboweni's face, although the minister holding the state's purse string would rather have his colleagues using their own vehicles, like he does.

The revised handbook will also give Mboweni's office and any minister of finance after him some powers to overlook procurement of vehicles for members of the executive.

According to the publication, the revisions bar members of the executive from buying new vehicles directly and force them to do so through the minister of finance.

"Official vehicles are to be procured through a transversal contract concluded by national treasury to ensure the procurement of cheaper vehicles, more efficient service, limitation on expenditure and standardisation," the paper quoted the new handbook.

Car budget of R700 000

The amended handbook has also set the highest price for vehicles for members of the executive at R700 000, from the R1.6m and R1.3m ceiling in terms of what a minister and deputy minister could spend on a luxury car of their choice before.

It is further reported that Mboweni has instructed treasury director general, Dondo Mogajane, to sell two BMW X5s that were bought for his predecessor and his deputy. Mogajane reportedly told the publication that his department acquired the German luxury vehicles at a discount paying about R850 000 for each while the standard diesel version starts at around R1.2m.

It appears, however, Mboweni who once argued that Mercedes Benz C-class which retails at about R600 000 for a top-of-the-range version was perfect for ministers and their deputies, wants to cut costs even further.

"The minister said we must get something cheaper and more modest," Mogajane told Sunday Times. The new handbook has also clipped the wings of ministers' spouses and the officials' first class junkets.

"For both domestic and international travel, members [of the executive] are permitted to fly business class using the cheapest of three quotations for the most cost-effective and convenient route," the Sunday Times reports quoting from the new handbook.

'No more unlimited trips of spouses'

Unlimited trips of spouses accompanying ministers have now been cut to only two a year on international trips and even then only "under certain circumstances".

Further luxury cuts will have to be reflected against South African standards for ministers travelling abroad with them now being required to only stay in hotels that are equivalent in cost to five-star hotels back home.

According to the Sunday Times, the revised handbook also seeks to limit the size of entourage a minister can take on an overseas trip.

"In addition to departmental staff and special advisers, members [of the executive] may be accompanied by no more than two support staff."

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