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24 August 2011 at 21:07 - Posted by Anonymous

Mansions for ministers: ‘Govt embarrassed itself’


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The Democratic Alliance has responded to GCIS chief executive Jimmy Manyi's claim that the attempt to focus attention on ministerial housing is a "barefaced move" to embarrass the executive. Photo: Phill Magakoe

The ministerial handbook used at national level permits a level of state-funded luxury for ministers that is not morally justifiable, Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Athol Trollip said on Wednesday.

“Government spin doctor Jimmy Manyi's accusation that the DA's expose of government's R183-million spending spree on mansions for (Cabinet) ministers was a barefaced move to embarrass the executive, misses the point entirely,” he said in a statement.

“It is not the DA's questions that are embarrassing, but the government's answers that embarrass the executive.”

Manyi's attempts to justify “this splurge” on the grounds that it adhered to supply chain management processes and was permitted by the ministerial handbook rang hollow when so many South Africans continued to live in poverty.

Spending money that could have been used to build 2000 RDP houses on 34 new ministerial mansions was “just plain wrong whatever the ministerial handbook says”.

“The fact is that the ministerial handbook used at national level permits a level of state-funded luxury for ministers that is not morally justifiable.

“This is precisely why the DA government in the Western Cape produced its own handbook with stringent regulations to limit this kind of expenditure,” Trollip said.

It was clear that the national ministerial handbook needed to change.

Otherwise, the excuse would always be “because the handbook says we can”.

Faced with a public outcry over spending on luxury cars for ministers, the government made a big noise in 2009 about amending the handbook.

Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi promised it would be done certainly before the World Cup. In April this year, he said it would be completed “soon, very soon”.

“So where is it? No amendments have been made and the spending spree continues unabated,” Trollip said.

Since Baloyi promised to change the handbook, the DA calculated that R693m had been spent on luxury cars, perks for the president's spouses, and buying and decorating ministerial houses.

“No wonder there is no rush to produce a new ministerial handbook,” he said.

On Tuesday, Manyi said the latest attempt to focus attention on ministerial housing was a “barefaced move” to embarrass the executive.

The government had indicated in 2009 that it planned to buy and upgrade housing for ministers, Members of Parliament, and top government officials, he said.

At the time, R150m had been earmarked as planned spending on ministerial housing in line with the government's budgetary and supply chain management process.

The increase in spending on ministerial housing was “dictated by the reconfiguration of the national executive”.

Six new Cabinet positions were created in May 2009 and 17 new deputy ministers appointed in October 2010 to ensure “maximum performance” of the executive.

“There is nothing wrong in ministers and deputy ministers having two residences (one paid for by the state and another by themselves) as currently regulated by the existing ministerial handbook,” Manyi said. - Sapa

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