Monday, 27 July 2009

Cut ministers' car benefit - DA

2009-07-26 14:27

Cape Town - The DA is proposing a range of cost-cutting measures for the executive, including doing away with free trips on the luxurious Blue Train, removing the right to a state sponsored domestic worker and cutting car allowances to a meagre R660 000.
Party leader Helen Zille said in Cape Town on Sunday economic times were tough and that the executive, like everyone else, should have to tighten their belts.
"This year, our economy is likely to shrink by almost 2% and we are deep in recession," Zille said.
"In the midst of this economic crisis, the government must demonstrate that it is prepared to make sacrifices and demonstrate some frugality."
Zille said her colleague, MP Anchen Dreyer, had submitted a letter to the director general in the presidency, Vusi Mavimbela, asking for certain amendments to be made to the ministerial handbook.
Fund own travels
This was in order to "reflect a more sympathetic appreciation for the plight that South Africa finds itself in".
One of the proposals is to cancel the right of members of the executive to make use of the Blue Train.
"Members of the executive currently are entitled to travel by train for official purposes at the cost of the relevant department, including travelling on the Blue Train," Zille said.
"It is not necessary for carrying out executive duties to travel on the Blue Train, and should members want to travel on the Blue Train, we believe they should fund this from their own pockets."
Members were entitled to a state-purchased car of a value equivalent to 70% of their annual salary. This equated to roughly R929 000.
"The DA believes that this is excessive. We propose that the benefit be reduced from 70% to 50%.
"This would entitle them to a car worth R663 780, which we believe is more than adequate for the purposes that members of the executive use their cars for."
Cancelling VIP lounges benefits
Another of the party's proposals is to cancel the right for the executive to make use of VIP lounges at airports during domestic trips.
"The DA proposes instead that members should not be allowed to use VIP rooms when travelling domestically, as it is not necessary to their jobs."
Domestic workers for members of the executive were also paid for by the taxpayer.
"Where members of the executive stay in private accommodation, they are... entitled to a domestic worker funded by the state. The DA has requested that this right be removed, so that ministers staying in their own houses pay for their own cleaning service."
The party has proposed a further stipulation that members of the executive not be allowed to use blue lights or sirens when being driven around, except in cases of genuine and verifiable emergency.
Zille said the executive was riddled with examples of "profligate spending".
One example was the communications department, which recently purchased two new BMW 750i cars valued at R1.1m each, for Minister Siphiwe Nyanda.
Another was KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize's inauguration party two months ago, which cost the taxpayer R10.6m.
"Across the country, citizens are protesting because of the conditions in which they live.
"In the midst of this economic crisis, the government must demonstrate that it is prepared to make sacrifices and demonstrate some frugality.
Zille said the party's proposals were being put into place in the Western Cape, where she is premier.
"We will be putting these to the president's office, in the hope that the national government will give consideration to implementing them too."



Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Prisons' bosses suspended

2009-07-13 15:36

Johannesburg - Correctional services national commissioner, Xoliswa Sibeko, and the department's acting chief financial officer, Nandi Mareka, have been placed on precautionary suspension with immediate effect, the department said on Monday.

"The reason for placement on precautionary suspension is to ensure the investigation into the renting of accommodation for senior executives, amongst others, is not interfered with," said department spokesperson Manelisi Wolela.

"It is important to note that there is no finding on these matters and therefore there is no judgement," he added.

Wolela declined to elaborate on the investigation. He said both Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and the commissioner regarded the investigation as "serious".
According to a statement, Mapisa-Nqakula announced the establishment of an investigative team at a special executive management committee meeting on Monday.

The Public Service Commission team would investigate Sibeko's conduct.

Recent media reports said that Sibeko and her Gauteng counterpart were renting properties costing the taxpayer around R35 000 per month.

Rapport newspaper said the rentals were in the exclusive Woodhill area of Pretoria, and were being used while the official residences stood empty.

Democratic Alliance shadow minister of correctional services, James Selfe, welcomed the pair's precautionary suspension, saying the fact that the minister had taken action was "encouraging" but was "only the beginning of what needed to be done".

"The DCS [department of correctional services] desperately needs a turnaround strategy to lift it out of the morass of mismanagement that has characterised the last five years," Selfe said in a statement.



Water Affairs DG put on leave

2009-07-21 15:43

Cape Town - Water Affairs director-general Pam Yako has been put on "special leave" pending the outcome of an investigation into alleged financial irregularities within the department.

"No charges have been levelled against Ms Yako or any official of the department and, until informed otherwise by the outcome of the investigation, the director-general remains innocent," Water Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said on Wednesday.

A statement issued by the ministry said Sonjica had decided to investigate the department's finances "following allegations of financial irregularities and information alleging maladministration and mismanagement".

Yako had been put on special leave to "allow for an unfettered process of investigation".

The statement said Yako was lending her total support to the investigation and had indicated a willingness to co-operate fully.
"As a responsive government committed to clean and efficient governance we had to look into these allegations with the seriousness that they deserve," Sonjica said.



Bling BMW: A slap in our faces

by Wayne G


2009-07-18 10:17

"Ask Minister Siphiwe Nyanda what government officials do in a recession..."
What does communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda do in the middle of a recession, where jobs are being lost, houses and cars are being repossessed by the thousand, most industries are in negative growth and we are all being told to watch our spending and tighten our belts?
He goes out and buys, not one, but two top of the range luxury German cars with every extra under the sun attached, thus figuratively speaking running around beltless and shameless.

I sit hear confused and irritated asking myself - what world do our ministers live in? In reality we are being encouraged to save and watch our spending. The government on the other hand, being the well-rounded role models they are, are living like rock stars with an endless supply of funds to buy luxury cars fit for heads of state in most rich first world countries.

While we are grappling with the worst global recession in history our ignorant ministers are rushing out to luxury stores and buying like there is no tomorrow.  Eskom, a state owned parastatal, is raising tariffs by 33%; the country is being lambasted by a wave of strikes demanding extra wages, everything is getting more expensive, house hold debt is at its highest in recorded history, and car sales are in negative growth along with most other sales of goods.

Guidelines are flawed

The prescribed guidelines for ministerial purchases are fundamentally flawed and its current practices are not in line with the current economic trends. How on earth can you justify spending R2.5m on two cars when you as a government are pleading poverty, raising taxes, paying your doctors pittances, not supplying your hospitals with the basic equipment used to save lives to name but a few on a very long list?

Minster, I have a friend who was on a flight from Johannesburg to Durban after the final rugby test match between SA and the Lions. One of our senior rugby players and his family were spotted by cabin crew sitting in economy class with the rest of the common man. He and his family were invited to move into business class and he refused point blank saying "he was very happy where he was".
I mention this purely to make a point that you don't have to take everything that is prescribed to you or your misdirected sense of entitlement deems necessary. This form of behaviour should be a lesson to you and all your "bling bling" cronies in government who are rewarding yourselves before you have even started doing your job. At the moment, the way things are going you should be riding a bicycle to the office or making use of our excellent public transport like everyone else.

Minister I challenge you to inform the South African tax-paying public who bought these cars for you out of our hard earned taxes what ceramic surround for controls, ambient interior lighting, adaptive headlights, high beam assist, a three-spoke, leather-covered steering wheel, a R23 400 "rear-seat entertainment" system and a R5 600 "high-gloss satin chrome" paint job help you do your job?
Maybe I am just ignorant but these extras are a slap in our faces. What is wrong with a standard 320d BMW? Most people only dream of owning a 3 series BMW, but you lift your nose up at it and go for the top of the range. Why do you need a 750i BMW?
I will tell you why, because to you it's all about image, image at the cost of all else, as long as you look good in your designer suits, ministerial mansions, and luxury German cars everything else can fall to pieces. This form of behaviour has no place in a third-world country where more than half your population are below the bread line.
No guilt?
Minister, on a more personal level, how do you sleep at night knowing you just spent R2.5m on two cars, while so many South Africans can't even afford a roof over their heads? Do you justify your actions with bureaucratic guidelines and red tape?
Shame on you and every other government official spending our taxes quicker than we can earn them. Every day you hear about another minister blowing the bank on some or other exorbitant spending spree or their officials running elaborate fraudulent schemes.

Mr Jacob Zuma, the so called "president of the people" is also slipping into the cracks of gluttonous and unscrupulous spending with a new government which is clearly out of control and has no idea about the fundamental difference between money and wealth.
Let it be known that you were voted in by the people, the same people who are struggling to make ends meet on a monthly basis. It is time for you and your government to humble yourselves and come down to our level. You are after all our employees; we pay your salaries and fit the bills for all of this reckless spending that has become the norm in the ANC.

Lastly, to everyone who voted for the ANC. The next time you are on walking or driving on one of our roads and a 750i BMW with ceramic surround  controls, ambient interior lighting, adaptive headlights, high beam assist a three-spoke, leather-covered steering wheel, a R23 400 "rear-seat entertainment" system and a R5 600 "high-gloss satin chrome" paint job screams past you at 180km/h throwing dust and rubber in your face, leaving your tiny insignificant image in its rear camera view, wipe the dust out of your eyes and take a look around and remember who you voted for. After all it's your vote that gives them the blank cheque.

These officials should be held accountable for this blatant abuse of power and money. It's no wonder we are such an angry nation, our own government is misappropriating our taxes and hiding behind laws they created to protect their taste for the finest luxuries money can buy.

As the late and great Winston Churchill said, "you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all of the time."  We are not fools, so next time you pop into your luxury store and buy some unnecessary item, know we are watching you, and we will not stop until you stop.