Taxpayers deserve answers on bling - DA

The government has squandered more than R1-billion of taxpayers' money over the past eight months on luxury vehicles, expensive hotels, banquets, advertising and other "wasteful expenditure", the DA said on Thursday.

"The total wasteful expenditure by the ANC... now stands at R1,004,000,000," Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Atholl Trollip told journalists at a media conference at Parliament in Cape Town.

The party had been tracking such spending through its so-called wasteful expenditure monitor since July 26 last year.

Trollip said that under President Jacob Zuma's administration, "wasteful expenditure has been the order of the day".

DA monitoring of spending indicated that the government was "out of touch with economic realities in South Africa".

According to a document tabled at the conference, government spending on new luxury vehicles totalled R47.4-million; on luxury hotels and other "property-related expense scandals", R4.5-million; and, on parties, banquets, conference and other such events, R203-million.

Further, government had spent a total of R16.5-million on "wasteful marketing, e-marketing and self-congratulatory advertising"; and, a total of R732.9-million on "all other items of wasteful and fruitless expenditure".

The latter figure included an amount of R117.5-million "that it cost the Gauteng provincial government to cancel their motorsport contract".

The document states that spending listed in the monitor "is only money that can be without a doubt considered wasteful squandering of public funds - be it on unnecessary glitz and partying, or on clear-cut and proven negligence or corruption".

Trollip said the total figure was "very, very conservative".

Not included, for example, were some of the very contentious contracts, to the tune of R140-million, allegedly involving ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, which were currently being investigated.

Speaking at the media conference, DA national spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko said that when it came to spending on luxury vehicles and expensive hotels, Zuma appeared "not that capable of controlling the actions of his cabinet ministers".

Trollip said it had proved difficult to obtain answers to some parliamentary questions the party had posed to ministers on spending.

Asked what his party planned to do about this, he said the matter had been raised twice with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, the leader of government business.

"Motlanthe has reported to the House twice that he has met with Cabinet to inform them that they must meet the parliamentary guidelines of answering these questions. They're still not meeting them," he said.

According to the document - titled "R1-Billion and Growing: The ANC's Wasteful Expenditure" - many ANC officials, including many in the Cabinet, have a "frivolous attitude" towards spending taxpayers' money.

"There appears to be a view that the government does not need to account for this money to the people who earned it, or to explain why it is more productive to spend money on bling than on education and job creation."

The R1-billion wasted since July 26 equated to just under 19 000 RDP houses, or enough funds to pay the annual salaries of another 8 000 teachers, it states.

Government issued a statement in response later on Thursday saying that it had taken note of the DA's comments.

"According to the Public Finance Management Act, fruitless and wasteful expenditure means expenditure which was made in vain and which could have been avoided had reasonable care been exercised," government spokesperson Themba Maseko said.

The Auditor-General had the sole legal responsibility of auditing and certifying all expenditure and had, as a consequence of this legal responsibility, the authority to determine what expenditure was fruitless and wasteful, he added.

"The auditing process which could have informed the figures given by the DA only starts in May 2010 and it is therefore government's view that the DA's statement is irresponsible and misleading as unaudited information and figures were presented."

Maseko added that some of the figures dated as far back as 2006 and the DA was therefore "inaccurate in stating that the so-called fruitless expenditure is as recent as July 2009". - Sapa

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