By Janine Stephen

Political Bureau

The government has frowned upon state entities spending millions of rands on World Cup tickets, but the departments of International Relations and Sports were an exception, it said.

State-owned entities struggled to explain their R5 million World Cup ticket splurge yesterday.

The Mercury yesterday reported that the SABC, Sentech, the Post Office and the Department of Public Service and Administration had collectively spent taxpayers' money on tickets to the sporting event.

The cash-strapped SABC alone accounted for more than 2 000 tickets at R3.3m.

Other government departments should not have splurged on World Cup tickets, said government spokesman Themba Maseko.

The Department of International Relations and Co-operation might be an exception as it was inviting heads of state to the event, while the Department of Sport and Recreation might also have had to invite VIP guests, he said. He added that there should not be wholesale buying of tickets by government departments.

But sport department spokesman Manase Makwela said it had not bought World Cup tickets. State entities that spent millions on the tickets refused to give details of their guests.

The SABC's Kaizer Kganyago defended the purchases yesterday, explaining they would be used for "stakeholder management". He said the stakeholders included advertisers, while some of the tickets were bought to give away in competitions to radio and TV audiences. "Eighty percent of our revenue we get from advertising, so we have to nurture the relationships with our stakeholders," he said.

Sentech opted for seats known as Extra Strongs "as opposed to suites, which do not come cheap". MPs are among the signal regulator's guests.

Its 96 tickets were for "stakeholder relations for the shareholder, portfolio committee of communications members, the regulator, customers and the media". All tickets were for matches at Soccer City and the cost was R1.04m - not R1.7m, as previously reported.

Post Office spokesman Kedibone Molopyane said its 500 tickets, costing R800 000, were to 16 fan parks, and that it would take some of its top 10 customers to these.

Public service department spokesman Dumisani Nkwamba said its tickets had been bought by the Government Employees Medical Scheme, which was managed as a private entity.