Durban - The clink of whisky glasses is still echoing along the corridors of some KwaZulu-Natal government departments despite Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s decree that booze would be the first to go as the government cuts costs.
The beneficiaries of this illicit spending have mostly been journalists who are being indulged at year-end functions under the guise of “networking”.
The eThekwini Municipality, South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs all hosted journalists at events where cider, beer and various brands of liquor were served.
However, the majority of departments cancelled their functions to adhere to Gordhan’s cost-cutting measures.
Last week eThekwini Municipality threw a party at Durban’s North Beach while Sassa held its party at the city’s Music House venue earlier this month and Agriculture and Environmental Affairs MEC Meshack Radebe hosted journalists at the Durban Point waterfront area on Friday.
Journalists who attended these parties were spoilt with a braai, mielie pap and booze.
DJs were hired to provide the music.
All three entities declined to disclose how much they spent.
In October, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the government would cut wasteful and extravagant expenditure and no longer spend more than R2 000 on entertainment.
However, it has been reported that Gordhan recently withdrew some of the cost-cutting measures to allow the government to entertain its foreign visitors with alcohol. Radebe’s spokesman Jeffrey Zikhali said the department “never spent a cent” on the event, which was sponsored by “stakeholders”.
However, he declined to disclose their identity.
The department is aware of the instruction by Pravin Gordhan and it will never do anything to compromise that instruction.
“There were many stakeholders who funded the event but the department has the right not to disclose their names.
Everyone had a right to hold a party for the end of the year,” he said.
Sassa spokesman Mbizeni Mdlalose said he could not respond to questions sent to him as the people who had organised the event were unavailable.
eThekwini Municipality spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said the aim of the party was to provide a platform for the media to interact with municipal officials.
“At the end of the year, the municipality hosts a networking session with the journalists to strengthen the working relationship and provide the media with an opportunity to interact with municipal officials. The municipality is committed to exercising austerity measures, in line with Minister Gordhan’s call,” said Mthethwa.
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs spokesman Vernon Mchunu said MEC Nomusa Dube decided that this year the department would not host an event.
“We are cutting down on expenditure. The MEC took a decision, in line with the provincial government’s cost-cutting measures.
We are focusing our budget on service delivery,” said Mchunu. - The Mercury