Two ministers have been found to have spent millions of taxpayers money on hotel accommodation in the last three years.
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, instead of observing the then strict lockdown regulations and sticking to virtual meetings, have been found to have slept in top hotels on businesses unrelated to government, paying over R5 million of taxpayers’ money.
Covid-19 restrictions have not stopped the ministry of communications and digital technologies from splashing taxpayers’ money on private accommodation and other expenses.
Former minister of communications and digital technologies Ndabeni-Abrahams and her previous deputy, Pinky Kekana in the portfolio of communications, as well as the current minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni and her deputy, Philly Mapulane, have in the past three years spent over R5m on private accommodations while the country was battling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This damning finding is contained in the parliamentary written reply by acting director-general of communications, Nonkqubela Jordan-Dyani.
The reply further states that in total more than R15m was spent by the department during this time adding that officials of the department had overspent on accommodation and travelling at a time when people were working from home as well as virtually due to the onset of the pandemic.
With an estimated value of R90 000 this means that the department could have built 110 RDP houses, while the same amount could have paid for 153 first year students at a cost of R65 000 each. The same money could have helped more than 10 schools with renovations at a cost of an average R1 million. At an average cost of R5 200 spent by National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), this money could have paid for 1 900 laptops.
The department’s communication officer, Tlangelani Manganyi, said she only learned from the media and was only able to respond the following day.
“Are you able to call me tomorrow morning as I am only learning about this issue from the papers?” she said.
Ndabeni-Abrahams is not new to controversies.
In 2020, as minister of communications and telecommunications, paid a R1000 admission of guilt fine for contravening lockdown regulations imposed by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
This after the NPA charged her with contravening section 11 B of the disaster management act.
She had visited former deputy higher education minister Mduduzi Manana’s home during the strict lockdown regulations of March 2020. She was photographed with Manana and other people having lunch at his home on April 5. The picture was posted on Manana’s Instagram page but later deleted.
Manana had claimed that Ndabeni-Abrahams had visited his home to collect essential personal protective equipment she intended to distribute to learners in need.
That was found not to be true.
Regarding Ntshavheni, the Zondo Commission Into State Capture Inquiry report found her “probably culpable” in the Guptas’ looting of Denel.
The second part of the report, published in February, held the former Denel board responsible for the Guptas' capture of the state weapons manufacturer. Ntshavheni served on this board. | Additional reporting by Nhlanhla Mbatha