Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa has come to the defence of the ministerial handbook, saying it was necessary to set parameters related to administrative and support assistance provided to members of the executive.
“The guide for members of the executive seeks to limit the extent to which the State would provide resources and enabling facilities (tools of trade) to members to ensure that the members perform their duties effectively, efficiently and prudently.
“The guide seeks to ensure that all departments and accounting officers apply consistent measures to ensure that expenditure does not exceed the prescribed limits and conditions,” Ramaphosa said.
He was responding in writing to parliamentary questions from DA MP Leon Schreiber, who asked whether he had commissioned a formal costing exercise to determine the total cost to the taxpayer of all benefits to ministers and deputy ministers.
Schreiber, a critic of the ministerial handbook, also wanted to know whether there was any specified legal provision on which Ramaphosa relied to implement the ministerial handbook and the reasons for the continued implementation of its provision.
In his written reply, Ramaphosa said a cost analysis on the staff establishment was done by the Department of Public Service and Administration and the National Treasury in respect of the guide for members of the executive.
“The outcome of the analysis revealed a cost reduction to the State,” he said.
Ramaphosa also said the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has similarly done a cost analysis with regard to ministerial residences.
The National Treasury concluded a transversal contract with original equipment manufacturers in terms of which vehicles for members of the executive were to be purchased.
Ramaphosa said the cost related to day-to-day matters, such as travel and accommodation, in respect of each member of the executive will vary depending on the nature and extent of their respective duties.
“The total costs incurred in this regard will be within the purview of the relevant department.
In line with the principles of accountability, the costs to each department are disclosed in their individual financial statements.”
He explained that the ministerial handbook provided a guideline for benefits, tools of trade and allowances to support ministers, deputy ministers, premiers and members of the executive council in the execution of their duties.
“This guide is necessary to set parameters related to administrative and support assistance.
“This is provided to members to ensure good governance with due regard to cost-effectiveness and efficiency.”
Ramaphosa said the implementation of the ministerial handbook was informed by the Public Finance Management Act, the Public Service Act, their resultant regulations, the Executive Members’ Ethics Act and the applicable public service coordinating bargaining council collective agreements.
The president’s response comes after the DA recently tabled an amendment bill to the Remuneration of Public Office-Bearers Act.
The bill seeks to ensure that there is transparency and oversight when Ramaphosa makes a decision about allowances, benefits or tools of trade for the ministers and their deputies.
“The DA’s Bill would end this secrecy by compelling the President to report any proposed changes to Parliament, and to inform the National Assembly of the costs associated with all perks,” said Schreiber, who estimated at R940 008 987 the different perks of ministers after collecting information.
He said the bill will end the President’s dictatorial powers over the Handbook.
“The President’s current unfettered powers to unilaterally introduce more benefits for himself and his Cabinet comrades constitute an obvious conflict of interest.
“The bill will rectify this by compelling Ramaphosa to first obtain recommendations from the Independent Remuneration Commission, provide proper costing, and consider the broader economic environment before introducing any new perks.
“It will also empower Parliament to play its rightful role by voting on what perks may be appropriate for the President, Deputy President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers,” he said.