Johannesburg - Three members of President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet have spent more than R724 000 in taxpayers’ money on car rentals in 18 months, despite having official vehicles.
Leading the pack was the late communications minister Roy Padayachie, who clocked 14 199km, setting taxpayers back by R373 163.
Padayachie, who died while on official business in Ethiopia last year, was followed by Deputy Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, who spent R211 198.50 on car rentals.
She had used hired vehicles 26 times from January last year to June 30 this year, clocking a total of 9 852km.
This was revealed by Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu when quizzed by the DA’s Patricia Kopane in Parliament on Monday.
“Vehicles had to be hired during the reporting period because the former minister (Padayachie) had to execute his official responsibilities outside the seat of office (Cape Town or Pretoria).
“Vehicles were also hired when the official vehicle went for a service or had a breakdown,” said Sisulu.
The third culprit was, ironically, Sisulu herself.
She confirmed that she had personally used hired vehicles 16 times from July 1 last year to June 30 this year.
Her trips cost taxpayers R140 591.97.
She had travelled 6 787km.
The total car hiring costs for the three ministers amounts to R724 953.47.
Sisulu said Dlodlo’s reasons for using hired cars were the same as those of Padayachie - both had to hire vehicles when their official vehicles were taken in for service or had breakdowns.
Dlodlo is no stranger to hiring cars courtesy of taxpayers.
In 2010 she hired vehicles on 18 occasions at a cost of R204 744.24.
At the time, her department said Dlodlo had no option but to hire the vehicles because she was without an official permanent vehicle.
She had had to rely on hired vehicles until her official vehicle was purchased in March 2011.
News of the use of private cars by cabinet members come at a time when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has asked government officials to tighten their belts and use public funds sparingly.
Some politicians and officials in the Zuma government have been repeatedly accused of abusing public funds by paying exorbitant fees for sub-standard services.
The government has been heavily criticised for spending more than R200 million upgrading Zuma’s private home in Nkandla, among others, in a country where the majority live in abject poverty and millions have no job.
Cabinet members such as Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande came under severe criticism in 2009 after buying exorbitantly expensive official cars costing about R1m.
The expenditure had taken place at the height of the global economic crisis that destroyed jobs and ravaged the South African economy.