Pretoria - New MPs were introduced on Tuesday to some of the perks of being parliamentarians, like the 86 free flights a year, cellphone allowances and the R450 a month to cover insurance for phones and computers.
They were also given pamphlets on everything from research services and IT training to a brochure on Cape Town’s attractions, schools and places of worship.
Not immediately on hand was the handbook of members’ facilities, so the new MPs had to take careful notes of the benefits to which they were entitled. These include Public Works providing anything from toasters and kettles in the subsidised accommodation in one of the three parliamentary villages to the so-called “self-management model” for ICT equipment - effectively cellphones, landlines, laptops and iPads.
MPs may claim, among other expenses, R700 a month for cellphones, R1 600 monthly for data packages and R350 a month for a landline.
While service providers would be at hand for the next month to assist, MPs were told reimbursement for costs was up to them and needed the necessary proof of payments.
MPs were told to submit their boarding passes when claiming one of their permitted flights, and dependants, who could also benefit from this quota, had to be registered. They were also told how to claim petrol for journeys of more than 400km.
Parliament’s turn-around time to process claims was three days. Refreshments and newspapers were on hand, the MPs were told.
From July, 1 MPs will be able to use an upgraded travel booking system, or they can use the travel agent in the parliamentary precinct.
There was disappointment for several new MPs with a track record in local government: council service does not count towards the 10 years of service after which they may fly business class rather than economy.
Allowances were made for MPs with homes and constituencies in remote areas, they were told. So an MP from Mthatha could fly to Cape Town via Joburg - because there is no direct flight - and it would count as a single journey.
The travel, ICT and other benefits are over and above an ordinary MP’s annual pensionable salary of R933 852.