South African government officials, including ministers and deputy ministers, have spent over R1.3 billion on food, accommodation and entertainment over the past three years, City Press reported.
The figures were revealed in ministers’ responses to parliamentary questions, and the biggest spender was the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, with a accommodation expenditure of R282 million.
The department spent an additional R11 million on catering and entertainment for its officials.
Another big spender was the Ministry of Basic Education, which exploded R150 million. R114 million of expenditure has gone into housing for civil servants since May 2019.
Home Secretary Aaron Motsoaledi has revealed his department has spent 149 million rand over the three years, of which R142 million was spent on accommodation.
Motsoaledi explained that the department spent the funds to secure accommodation for officials during events such as conferences, parliamentary briefings and the deployment of officials at borders.
“Accommodation expenditure relates to official travel, namely domestic and international,” he said.
“These trips consist of attending conferences, parliamentary briefings, bilateral meetings, office visits and border deployment of border officials during the festive/Easter periods.”
Other big spenders include the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment and the Department of International Relations and Cooperations, with expenditures of R137 million and R127 million, respectively.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been outspoken about overspending by government officials.
DA civil service and administration spokesman Leon Schreiber said the amounts spent were excessive, adding that the government could have used the funds better.
“The amount spent on parties, dinners and hotels would be enough to provide school meals for 250,000 needy children for their entire 12-year education,” City Press quoted Schreiber as saying.
He also pointed the finger at the Home and Justice and Corrections Ministers as the funds could have been used to improve the financial situation of their departments.
Earlier this month, Schreiber said the DA was saving South African taxpayers up to R39 million every year after lobbying ‘relentlessly’ for parliament to pass a new travel policy for retired ministers and their deputies.
Schreiber said the AD-inspired travel policy includes the 75% reduction in free flights for government officials, no business class flights and a five-year limit instead of a lifetime. free flights.
Specifically, annual free flights for civil servants and their spouses have been reduced from 72 to 12, and civil servants are only entitled to economy class tickets.
The policy aims to tackle the ‘Gravy Plane’ scandal, where it emerged that retired civil servants were entitled to free flights even decades after they retired.
Now, rather than a lifetime of free flights, civil servants can use the benefit for five years after retiring from Parliament and only if they have served at least a full term.
The DA predicts that this approach will save South African taxpayers nearly R197 million over five years.