Picture: Supplied

Johannesburg - Government departments continued to splurge hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' money on luxury vehicles for ministers, despite the country's economy being in dire straits.

Some departments went beyond the R1 million mark buying bling cars.

This has prompted renewed calls for the scrapping of the Ministerial Handbook, which governs the buying of official vehicles for ministers.

The buying of expensive vehicles by some departments happened at a time when the government had announced interventions to reduce spending, including adjusting wage bill.

The Ministerial Handbook governs the buying and replacement of official vehicles for use by ministers and deputy ministers in Cape Town and Pretoria.

It stipulates that a vehicle chosen by a minister may not exceed 70% of a minister's inclusive annual remuneration package.

Written responses from various ministers to questions posed by DA MPs show that several ministers and deputy ministers had gone on a buying spree since April last year.

Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu bought a BMW 740i to the tune of R1.3m in April last year and her deputy, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, a BMW 541i at a cost of R778 508.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga bought a BMW 5 Series to the tune of R833 488 for her Deputy Minister Enver Surty's use in Cape Town and an Audi Q7 for his use in Pretoria at a cost of R1m last year.

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said an Audi Q7 worth R1m was bought for him in 2017, but it was transferred to the Department of Sport and Recreation.

Nxesi said a Mercedes-Benz GLE worth R1.2m and Toyota Land Cruiser V200 were bought for former minister Nkosinathi Nhleko in June 2017.

Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said he inherited an Audi A8 from his predecessor that was bought in 2017 at a cost of R970 161.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha bought a Mercedes-Benz GLE at a cost of R975 750 last year.

Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor's department bought her a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado at a cost of R858 006 last year.

Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi said her Deputy Minister Zanele Magwaza-Msibi was bought an Audi Q7 in 2017 for R96 0140.

Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele said no car was bought for him and his deputy since April 2018.

Cwele said the department bought a Lexus and an Audi Q7 at cost of R815 660 and R847 676 respectively in September 2016.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said his department last bought him a Toyota Fortuner at a cost of over R600 000 in May 2016.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said no vehicle was bought for him or his deputy during 2016/2017, 2017/2018 or since April 2018.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize also said no vehicles were bought by the department in 2018.

Mkhize said the department had bought a BMW X5 at a cost of R917 619 and an Audi Q7 at a cost of R938 547 in September 2016.

On Monday, political parties and labour federations lashed out at the expenditure on luxury vehicles for ministers and deputy ministers.

DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi said it appeared that the trend in expenditure on ministerial vehicles had not changed.

“There is no response to calls made by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on austerity measures,” Malatsi said.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said there was a lot of hypocrisy on how the cabinet was being pampered with perks and benefits when the country was an unequal society, with the poor struggling to make ends meet.

“This is pampering of people who are highly paid as legislators,” Pamla said.

He charged that it was worthwhile for the ministers and deputy ministers to check their lifestyles and for President Cyril Ramaphosa to exert pressure on the cabinet not to be extravagant at a time there were moves to cut the wage bill.

Pamla said the Ministerial Handbook should rather be scrapped. “Remove the perks and benefits enjoyed by cabinet and you will see the difference. Until we deal with that, everything is a futile exercise,” he said.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh said there were limits imposed by the Ministerial Handbook, but there were ministers who spent within while others exceeded what was allowed.

“Those ministers who exceed what is allowed should be made to pay the difference.”

Singh also said sticking within the Ministerial Handbook needed political will from Ramaphosa to ensure ministers spent within the limits.

Political Bureau