Cape Town - The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has come under fire for spending R1.5 million on an International Women’s Day event in the Free State in March.
The expenditure was revealed by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, when she was responding in writing to parliamentary questions from DA MP Bridget Masango.
Masango wrote to Zulu asking for the breakdown of the total amount spent on the venue, catering and gifts for guests attending the event on March 28.
She also enquired about the number of people who were invited to the event and actually attended; the purpose of the event; and the reasons that a government venue was not used, among other things.
In her response, Zulu said R 185 483.50 was spent on conference venue hire; R43 412.50 on sound and public address system; R227 843.75 on catering and refreshment; and R488 711.53 on the event, including the service fee of R 31 971.78 from the travel agent.
Zulu said 250 officials were invited and 214 attended.
“Sassa Free State did not procure gifts from the budget of the institution,” she said.
The minister said the biggest venues in government departments that Sassa Free State normally used were from Premier’s Department, Department of Health and National Department of Public Works.
“All these three government departments’ venues cannot accommodate 250 officials with round tables set up. For this reason, a private venue was procured,” Zulu said.
She added that Sassa Free State relied on the National Treasury Instruction Note that allowed for catering of officials on forums and hiring of venues.
Zulu insisted that the gifts were not procured by Sassa Free State, but did mention who did the procurement.
Masango said on Sunday Zulu was trying to downplay the R1.5 million the Sassa Free State regional office spent.
“It is puzzling why Sassa and the Minister have qualms in revealing how the R1 million for gifts were spent.
“Instead of providing the necessary information, they simply stated that Sassa Free State did not procure gifts from the budget of the institution,” she said.
In April, Masango claimed that the DA received information from their source that Sassa in the Free State spent at least R1.5 million on the event.
She said the DA has submitted further questions to ascertain from which budget Sassa procured the gifts for the event, the nature and number of the gifts, and their total cost.
“It is time Sassa and the Department of Social Development prioritised grant beneficiaries. The department’s failures have a very serious effect on South Africa’s poorest and most vulnerable,” she said.