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Johannesburg - In defiance of the National Treasury’s instructions to cut costs, police management spent close to R500 000 on a gala dinner in Durban for its top officers this week – and MPs are demanding answers.
The gala dinner, themed “The Top 1 500”, was part of a two-day police conference held at the prestigious Durban International Convention Centre.
Expected to attend the dinner and conference were Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu and National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, along with her deputy national commissioners, divisional commanders and the country’s 1 135 station commanders.
The group discussed the vision of the police. But police management’s decision to host the event at the world-class conference centre could come under the scrutiny of the National Treasury. In December last year, acting accountant-general Schalk Human sent all accounting officers a Treasury instruction detailing how to cut down on their costs.
On hiring venues, Human’s instruction was: “Meetings and planning sessions must, as far as practically possible, be held in-house.
In instances where such sessions cannot be held in-house, (alternative) facilities at other government institutions must be sought.” The instruction came into effect on January 1.
While police portfolio committee chairwoman Annelize van Wyk agreed that the meeting was important for the minister to talk to police officers, she questioned the costs of the lavish dinner. She said the police and the portfolio committee were well aware of the instruction.
“Even before this instruction was issued, police were told by the portfolio committee to cut down on entertainment, which I see this as part of.
“I’m pretty sure they do not have a big enough venue, but whether it was necessary to have it at the convention centre is another question.
There are state-owned venues that would have cost them less. And why do they need a gala dinner? That’s the bottom line,” said Van Wyk.
She said the portfolio committee would be asking police management these questions, and hoped the Treasury would be asking these questions too. Police spokesman Solomon Makgale said the police did not have a venue that could accommodate 1 500 people.
The Sunday Independent was reliably informed that the gala dinner on Thursday night alone cost R490 000. This figure excluded flights and accommodation for more than 1 000 officers who descended on the province.
Makgale would not discuss the costs of the conference for the two days, or the gala dinner.
“We would like to state upfront that all the money spent on the Top 1 500 management workshop and ministerial engagement was budgeted for, and procurement for services was done procedurally.
“Due consideration was given to ensure that services were procured in a cost-effective manner, in line with existing government regulations and guidelines.”
Makgale said some officers flew and others drove to Durban.
“We used seven different hotels, depending on room availability and proximity to the ICC,” said Makgale.
It is the police’s second conference. Last year the conference was held at the Birchwood Hotel in Joburg.