Cape Town -130529. Cape Town Mayor, Patricia de Lille, at a full council meeting in the chambers at the Civic Centre this afternoon. Reporter: Anel Lewis. Photo: Jason Boud

Cape Town - While prudent spending on overseas trips has saved the City of Cape Town about R3 million in the last financial year, mayor Patricia de Lille is worried the bill for local travel is hitting the R10 million mark.

Raising concerns about the spending on national trips, De Lille said the city had sent 13 people to one conference in Pretoria.

“We can’t be letting big delegations travel internally. We are working on means to curb further spending. We can send one or two people, not a whole delegation,” she said.

De Lille was explaining the city’s cost-cutting approach to trips by officials and councillors at last week’s council meeting.

Achmat Williams, of the New National Party, criticised the city for the R1.3m it spent on trips from May 2013 to July this year, adding that the money could have been better spent.

Williams questioned why a delegation of five, including the mayor, city manager and a mayoral committee member needed to visit New York at a cost of R595 000.

“Although I suppose the city is promoting itself, but we need to be mindful of the poor,” he said.

De Lille hit back, saying: “The City of Cape Town at all times makes sure we properly evaluate a trip to see if there’s a value add.”

She said the city was bound by National Treasury rules when it came to expenditure on trips and the city’s own travel policy stated that international trips could only be considered for portfolio-specific work. Most of these trips were limited to mayoral committee members, and officials usually only joined the delegation if additional support was needed.

De Lille said many of the trips were sponsored. “We try to keep the costs as low as possible.”

Mayoral committee member for tourism Garreth Bloor went on a sponsored trip to London in July to attend the World Class Global Final. The total cost to the city was R10 593.

Another official took a trip to Greece as part of his compulsory study leave, at no cost to council.

Some of the trips taken in the last few months included a trip to Canada by the director of World Design Capital, Richard Perez, at a cost of R63 046.92.

Some of the local trips have included visits by Bloor and mayoral committee member Ernest Sonnenberg to attend the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities (Southern Africa) Services meeting in KwaZulu-Natal at a cost of just over R12 000.

A “strategic breakaway” with the mayor, mayoral committee members and portfolio committee chairs at Winchester Mansions in Sea Point came to R20 000.

The cheapest local trip must have been that of deputy mayor Ian Neilson to Goudini Spa to represent Premier Helen Zille at the premier’s co-ordinating forum. The cost to council was R30 for toll fees.

Last year, the city was criticised by opposition parties for spending R1m on a five-person delegation to London to attend the Chelsea Flower Show.

De Lille said then that the city had managed to cut spending on overseas trips by almost two thirds in the 2012/13 financial year.

The “modest” R2 657 145 spend on international travel would have been closer to R8m without the metro’s cost-cutting efforts.

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Cape Argus