Houses for MPs set taxpayer back R744m
Johannesburg - The government has spent a whopping R743.7million over the past 10 years on the three parliamentary villages that house MPs and sessional officials who perform duties in the national legislature.
This amount was revealed by Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille in a written response to a parliamentary question by DA MP Willem Faber, who quizzed government on the costs spent on Acacia, Pelican and Laboria Parks in Cape Town.
Acacia Park has 337 housing units and 155 apartments, Laboria Park 64 units and Pelican Park 108.
The MPs and officials stay at a nominal rent of about R400 or more a month.
They do not pay for municipal rates and services or foot the bill for maintenance as the costs are the sole responsibility of Public Works, which also provides furniture and appliances. In her response, De Lille said the total transport costs for MPs and staff incurred by the government for the three villages totalled R38m in the fourth term and R35m in the fifth term.
The rates and services cost up to R112.6m in both terms with R27.1m spent in the fourth term and R85.4m in the fifth. Full-time officials, who are hired by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to render services at the parks, cost a combined R21m in both terms.
De Lille said construction of the new access buildings at the three parliamentary villages amounted to R35m in the fifth Parliament. Maintenance cost of R462.4m while R37.4m was spent on purchasing of new furniture and appliances in the last two terms, the minister said.
Asked if she has considered the option of providing each MP with a housing allowance instead of accommodation, De Lille said it was her department’s responsibility to provide accommodation to government departments and MPs.
“Any request for allowances to public office bearers must be made to the Independent Commission for Remuneration of Public Office Bearers,” she said. But Faber yesterday said the costs related to the parliamentary villages were extremely extraordinary.
“There should be a system implemented for MPs to stay in one of the parks or provide them with allowance to rent their own places,” he said. Faber said the government could save millions of rand considering that MPs do not stay at the villages for the whole year.
“MPs come to Parliament on Tuesdays and leave on Thursdays or Fridays if the national legislature was in session and stay away for about two months in a year on recess,” he said.
“There must be a much more economical way for accommodating MPs. They can rent a place in Cape Town. It will come at a much lesser cost to the government.” Farber also highlighted that the parliamentary villages were a cash cow as the government splashed out on renovations, refurbishments and furniture.
He charged that Acacia Park, for instance, could be transferred to the City of Cape Town since it had an operating school, pre-school and sport and recreational facilities.
“It’s a huge piece of land. If you look at it, it can be utilised by the City to provide housing,” he said. But De Lille said: “Acacia Park is currently used by MPs and sessional officials.