Johannesburg - In the Department of Social Development, economising means spending an amount of R15 143.82 on a single day’s hire of an Audi Q3 for the minister.
Or R43 203 on three days’ travel in an Audi Q7.
Or R22 575 on three days in a Mercedes S-Class.
Or about R30 000 on two Audi Q7s hired for the same four days travel for the same minister.
Or nearly R46 000 for two days in a BMW X5 for a deputy minister.
This is how the Social Development Department “reduced” spending on travel after promising to do following the urging of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The figures emerged among parliamentary replies to questions by the DA to various ministries on car hire spending.
DA transport spokesman Ian Ollis said R1.3 million was spent by the ministries of Social Development, Public Enterprises and Correctional Services between January 2012 and March last year.
This brings the total spent on vehicle rentals by President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet and deputy ministers to R10.8 million in just over a year.
Some of the replies give slightly different periods for the spending.
The Social Development Ministry was the biggest spender of the three to most recently reply, spending R785 728 between the minister and deputy minister. These figures were from January 2012 to April 2013 for the minister, and to June 2013 for the deputy.
That ministry’s car hire could have paid for a year’s worth of monthly pensions for 51 war veterans. The department budgeted to pay 477 veterans last year.
In February last year, in the 2013/14 Budget, the ministry promised to review its policies on travel, accommodation, venues and communication “to ensure that spending on these non-core service delivery items is reduced” after cutting R62m from spending on goods and services.
Much of the spending is before then; however, the ministry’s car hire since February last year listed six trips for a total of 16 days and a total cost of R120 510, or nearly R32 per kilometre.
Before that promised review, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini hired an Audi Q7 for two weeks at R100 504 and also for 21 days at a cost of R80 419.
Dlamini’s spokeswoman, Lumka Oliphant, said there were a number of reasons why the minister had the biggest bill out of all ministers in the cabinet.
“Firstly, we say as our pay-off line, siyaya emphakathini njalo (we go to communities regularly). Secondly, it’s batho pele, or people first. The nature of the work in Social Development is working for the poor. The minister only has cars in Cape Town and Gauteng and has no cars in other provinces. She has gone to far-flung areas in all corners of the country,” said Oliphant.
She said an advertisement in a newspaper could cost as much as R500 000 – far more expensive than community outreach.
“And you’ll find that there are far fewer readers (of newspapers). The minister is talking to people, that’s why,” said Oliphant.
Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba spent R283 166 on hired vehicles.
Minister of Correctional Services S’bu Ndebele and his deputy Ngoako Ramatlhodi spent a total of R126 702.
Gigaba noted in his response that the general picture about car rentals is that rates vary from one car rental company to the other, “and huge delivery and collecting fees are also charged”.
“These fees are charged if, for example, a car had to be taken to a far-off small town airport and be collected thereafter due to unavailability of such cars in those areas.
“Kilometres travelled also plays a major factor in the amount charged, and can be charged from R8 per km to R15 or more per km,” said Gigaba.
Ollis said that in one instance, Gigaba rented a vehicle for just one kilometre and paid R2 381.79 for the trip.
“Although the minister argues that the rental was later cancelled, it remains unacceptable that R2 381.79 was paid for a car that was not used,” said Ollis.
“When he came into office in 2009, President Zuma waxed lyrical about ensuring a reduction of wasteful expenditure,” he added.
But the continued splurging by members of Zuma’s cabinet “is indicative of a government that is not committed to cutting unnecessary costs”.