Durban - A cancelled study tour to India by 12 members of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature has been slated as money down the drain.

The 12, from the education portfolio committee, had been due to leave last Saturday, but received SMSes from an official on the eve of their departure to inform them otherwise.

More than one source at the legislature said fault lay with the legislature staff in charge of organising the trip.

But KZN legislature spokesman Wonder Hlongwa said the trip had been cancelled on the advice of the Department of International Relations.

The department had said that the SA embassy in India had a number of high-ranking officials from home visiting the country and couldn’t host everyone simultaneously.

“It then advised that the trip be postponed, not cancelled,” he said.

The amount of R380 000 that was reportedly already spent on the trip and was now “lost” was inaccurate, he said.

“All that will be charged are minimal cancellation costs,” he said.

But others in the legislature said there were big penalties for the last-minute cancellation, including the cost of upmarket accommodation for a week, travel insurance and penalties on the business-class tickets.

The MPLs were due to spend a week in India, before going on to the Czech Republic for the second leg of the trip.

MPL and DA spokesman on education Tom Stokes said he had been scheduled to go on the trip, but pulled out two weeks ago, as he saw no value in it. He confirmed that the trip to India had been cancelled at the last minute, but could not confirm whether the second half of the trip had also been cancelled.

He blamed “derelict” provincial administrative staff and poor management at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation for the cancellation of the trip.

Stokes said that the DA would be investigating the issue.

“In principle, we would have learned something from the second half of the trip, but the committee was struggling to secure meetings that would add value.”

Stokes said that the organisation of such trips had been chaotic for the past three years.

“The researchers working on the trip need to get something that is cost-effective and value-added,” he said. - The Mercury