The King chats to Father Robin Phillips at his mothers Wreath Ceremony. Picture: ZANELE ZULU

KwaZulu-Natal - KwaZulu-Natal royal family’s unexplained “extravagance” has raised the ire of parliamentarians who were presented with the royal household’s financial report last week.

The department tasked with taking care of King Goodwill Zwelithini’s affairs was thrust into the spotlight for its irregular spending to the tune of R6 million, and an overdraft of R10m, despite its annual budget of R55m.

Opposition parties have lamented the incompetency of officials running the department and the king’s opulence.

Of particular concern is a R600 000 grocery bill, R26 000 spent on livestock vaccinations and food supplements and the fraudulent use of 15 petrol cards.

The scathing report by Auditor-General Terence Nombembe states that while investigations into the R600 000 grocery bill and the procurement of vaccines and food supplement for livestock to the tune of R26 077 were completed, the department has yet to finalise investigations into the 15 petrol cards.

While the department failed to list the items of groceries it purchased and at what price, Nombembe’s report said officials claimed they were bought on behalf of the queens.

Also included in the report is the king’s travel costs between April last year and March, which peaked at R6m.

He spent more time locally than abroad, with only R17 000 spent on foreign trips.

The royal household spent R21m on goods and services of which R1.6m was spent on food and food supplies and R1m on fuel, oil and gas.

Stationery and printing for the king cost half a million.

An alarming amount of about R3.6m was spent on consultants, contractors and outsourced services, with R1.7m going on business and advisory services and R1.1m on contractors.

Two million rand was spent on audit services.

Only R764 000 was spent on infrastructure and planning, meaning less progress has been made on the renovation, refurbishing and building of palaces. (see above)

The biggest chunk of the budget – R21m – was spent on employees’ salaries and related labour needs, with the payroll alone hitting R18m.

The DA’s provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu bemoaned the mounting bill for the king’s opulence, saying it was of grave concern.

“It’s worrying,” he said.

“It should come to a point where the government and the premier’s office give us a holistic picture of the value of the rand we get from this expenditure.

“What is the value that we derive from this?” asked Mchunu.

However, the IFP’s royal household portfolio committee member and MPL, Inkosi Bonga Mdletshe, was cautious in criticising the king, saying the issue was the conduct of the officials.

“In fact as the IFP we do not support the systems designed for stealing public money.

“What we have said in the past was royal infrastructure like the palaces should be well taken care of because, in their current state, they are a disgrace,” said Mdletshe.

ACDP MPL Jo-Ann Downs said that not much value was derived from the king’s existence because of incompetent officials.

“We could really have an iconic Zulu monarchy that could add so much value to KwaZulu-Natal as a tourist destination. Unfortunately, no one seems to have the initiative and vision to promote events,” said Downs.

THE RUSTING FLEET

A visit last week by the Sunday Tribune to the Linduzulu Royal Palace in Nongoma revealed a royal administration palace in an appalling state.

Of note was the slew of several vehicles rusting away. An employee said many of them had been smashed while others had mechanical problems. They include a fleet of Mercedes-Benz ML 4x4’s, Mitsubishi Colt bakkies and Toyota Camrys.

“It’s all due to negligence and we can’t sell these cars since they are state property, but I doubt the government knows their condition. They get licensed every year even though they have not been on the road for a couple of years,” he said.

THE KING’S BUDGET FOR 2011/2012

Programme 1: administration

Support services to his majesty: R39.489 million – overspent by R5.7m.

The purpose of this programme is to provide administrative and auxiliary services to the king and the royal family. It is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the king and the royal family execute the mandate as provided in the legislation. It is also responsible for the development and protection of the monarchy as a provincial brand.

Programme 2: royal household

Planning and development: R11.931 million – underspent by R5.2m.

The programme is responsible for the overall maintenance of the royal household infrastructure. The department plans to focus on required renovations and maintenance to all seven royal residences, for which additional funding was provided. This includes total renovation, upgrading and refurbishment, emergency repairs to both the inside and outside of the palaces, as well as providing for water reticulation systems and landscaping.

Programme 3: his majesty the king’s farms

R3.608m – underspent by R1.7m.

This project was developed to ensure commercial viability and revenue generation. Feasibility studies were completed by the Department of Economic and Rural Development, which will commence with the full commercialisation of three farms to move towards sustainability.

Sunday Tribune