Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa has bowed to public pressure and partially stopped his ministers and their deputies from enjoying free electricity and water in their official residences at taxpayers’ expense.
In April, Ramaphosa introduced the requirement that the costs of provision of electricity and water in the Tshwane and Cape Town official residences of members of his executive be covered by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.
The state was, however, not responsible for any rates, taxes or other municipal charges in private residences, in terms of the April 2022 guide for members of the executive, which replaced the ministerial handbook.
The latest version of the guide retains the November 2019 provision for the government to pick up the tab for water and electricity in state-owned houses occupied by ministers and their deputies but is only limited to R5 000 a month.
Ramaphosa was forced to announce that he was withdrawing the April 2022 amendment relating to water and electricity pending a review after a public outcry.
”The department responsible for public works shall be responsible for the costs associated with the provision of water and electricity to a state-owned residence, provided that such cost is limited to R5 000 per month per state-owned residence,” reads the guide, dated November 2022.
According to the new guide, any costs in excess of R5 000 per month per state-owned residence will be borne by the relevant minister or deputy minister.
In a letter to executive authorities (ministers, deputy ministers, premiers and MECs) in the national and provincial government, acting Public Service and Administration Minister Thulas Nxesi indicated that Ramaphosa had ditched the provision of free water and electricity for members of his executive.
"… the amended guide for members of the executive as approved by the president on November 2, 2022 (hereinafter referred to as the November 2022 guide) retains the provisions relating to the water and electricity costs at official residences and the staffing arrangements for offices of executive authorities as those contained in the guide for members of the executive approved on November 20, 2019,” stated Nxesi.
Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille has also revealed that her department spent over R784 000 replacing generators in 13 official ministerial residences due to redundancy and being too costly to maintain.
One generator was bought and installed last month and another three were still in the procurement stage.
The review of the guide also included the possible removal of the limit on how many staff members can be employed in ministers' and deputy ministers’ private offices. Nxesi added that Ramaphosa had decided to retain the staffing arrangements in the offices of executive authorities.
In June, the Sunday Independent reported that the April 2022 guide kept the number of staff in ministers’ private offices at 15, but cuts the staff complements in deputy ministers’ offices from 11 to 10, while premiers and MECs have 12 and 11 employees in their offices, respectively, down from 13.
To manage staffing arrangements, Nxesi urged departments to ensure that any new appointments made in the offices are aligned with the structures contained in the November 2022 guide. The latest guide retains the number of staff in a premier’s office to 12 while ministers’ staff will also be reduced to 14.
MECs now have 10 members of staff, which will be similar to deputy ministers.
”Any employee who has been employed in posts in the office of an executive authority or a deputy minister in terms of the provisions of the April 2022 guide shall continue to be employed on the terms and conditions applicable to her or his employment until that employee’s employment terminates,” he explained.