DA MP Desiree van der Walt. File picture: Twitter

Cape Town - The bloated cabinet of former president Jacob Zuma continues to live on despite President Cyril Ramaphosa's pledge to address government excesses, including giving due consideration to downsizing his cabinet, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

"This cabinet is by far one of the biggest in the world with 35 ministers; far bigger than the United States at 15 ministers, Kenya with 18 ministers, and the United Kingdom with 21 ministers," DA spokeswoman Desiree van der Walt said.

This year alone, the 35 ministers and 37 deputy ministers would earn R163.5 million and over R510.5 million over the medium-term. Further, the ministerial handbook currently recommended that ministers’ and deputy ministers’ private offices be limited to 10 and six staff respectively, but in many cases these numbers had been exceeded considerably. In total this year all private offices would cost a whopping R1.09 billion and R3.485 billion over the medium-term, she said.

Regarding ministerial residences, the public works department had spent over R188 million on acquiring just 33 properties in Pretoria and Cape Town at an average of R5.7 million per residence. It was revealed last year that an additional R48 million would be spent on acquiring six additional residences at an average of R8 million per residence in the 2017/18 financial year. The total of R236 million spent on acquiring 39 ministerial houses could have been spent on building nearly 2000 RDP houses.

Among other things, this year the taxpayer was set to spend R296.9 million on travel and subsistence for ministries and R934 million over the medium-term. Ministries were set to spend R5.7 million on “entertainment” over the medium-term and R1.8 million in this year, Van der Walt said.

Ministers were provided with VIP security services in the police’s budget programme including security at their ministerial residences. The total budget for VIP protection over the medium-term stood at R4.84 billion (including protection for the president, ministers, and other VIPs) and R1.5 billion in 2018/19. 

"Simply put the country’s current cabinet is not fit for purpose and needs to be cut. We don’t have to look abroad for a more frugal cabinet: previous presidents had smaller cabinets... Nelson Mandela – total cabinet size 50 (28 ministers); Thabo Mbeki – total cabinet size 50 (28 ministers); Kgalema Motlanthe – total cabinet size: 47 (28 ministers); Jacob Zuma/Cyril Ramaphosa – total cabinet size 73 (35 ministers)."

The handbook was extraordinarily lenient in some respects, allowing for excessive spending. Ministers had therefore used the handbook as an excuse for exorbitant spending, which could not be justified given the current levels of inequality, and it needed to be reviewed.

"If the president is serious about helping National Treasury reign in the runaway budget deficit he will have to cut executive spending by finalising a stricter and more frugal ministerial handbook, as well as cutting the overall size of the cabinet," Van der Walt said.

African News Agency/ANA