Regulation delays let state's big spenders off hook

BurningMoney.jpgTreasury regulations aimed at curbing wasteful expenditure by officials on car rentals, hotels and air tickets will not immediately affect some of the government’s biggest spenders.

According to a Treasury instruction note sent to all departments, constitutional bodies and public entities last month, cost-cutting measures relating to executive authorities will only be set out in the revised ministerial handbook. The exempted authorities included ministers, deputy ministers, premiers, MECs and mayors, reported BusinessDay earlier this month.

A revision of the ministerial handbook was initiated more than four years ago, with no indication yet when it will be finalised.

The spokesman for Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Ndivhuwo Mabaya, said an interministerial Cabinet committee was considering the revised handbook. He could not say when it would finally be adopted.

However, it would incorporate the cost-containment measures that the Cabinet approved late last year and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced in his mini-budget in October.

Meanwhile, the spending continues. North West Premier Thandi Modise has flouted the spirit of the Cabinet’s drive to curb wasteful spending by splurging R1.3-million on a new BMW 750i. However, this was within the guidelines of the existing ministerial handbook.

Democratic Alliance finance spokesman Tim Harris said that the delay "casts serious doubt over whether these measures will be sufficient, or when they will kick in. Ms Modise’s car purchase showed that not all government leaders had accepted the need to curb costs, and that Mr Gordhan "faces an uphill battle in ensuring belt-tightening".

The measures outlined in the Treasury instruction note took effect from January 1, though a notice in the government gazette in November banned the use of individual credit and debit cards by officials.


Parliament.jpgThe Treasury’s latest measures include:
  • * Restrictions on the use of consultants, whose fees must comply with guidelines and contracts for whom must include penalty clauses for poor performance.
  • * Economy air tickets will be mandatory for employees on domestic flights and business class will be available only to directors-general and CEOs of public entities. No first-class travel would be allowed "under any circumstances".
  • * Domestic hotel accommodation may not exceed R1 300 per night, per person, including dinner, breakfast and parking except in specified circumstances.
  • * Vehicles can be hired from a category no higher than Group B or an equivalent class.
  • The Treasury has also put limits on the number of people travelling from Pretoria to attend events in Parliament or to other parts of the country. This will be limited to three employees, unless otherwise authorised.
  • * Departments, constitutional institutions and public entities will not be able to incur catering expenses for internal meetings without authorisation and cannot spend more than R2 000 per qualifying person per fiscal year. No alcohol can be purchased for these events, unless they are state banquets or intended as a promotional exercise or to host foreign dignitaries.

Adapted from BusinessDay

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