Wasteful expenditure of public funds – an alternative solution

Mark Steele MPP

DA KZN Public Accounts spokesperson

B Mitchell (Witness, July 8) is correct in complaining that massive amounts of public funds are wasted on ministerial perks such as luxury vehicles and squads of bodyguards.  He demands that there be accountability for the spending of public funds but I would suggest there is an alternative solution to the problem.

The fact is that excessive spending by Ministers and MECs may never generate an audit query and thus may not even come to the attention of a public accounts committee such as SCOPA provided that spending is done in terms of the proper regulations (e.g. the Minister’s Handbook) and that proper tendering procedures as set out in the PFMA are followed.  A Minister could rack up millions in first class travel and hotel accommodation for a large retinue including body guards, but they cannot be held accountable because the Minister’s Handbook permits such blatant extravagance.   SCOPAs deal with many cases where Departments and public entities actually get clean or unqualified audits even though the taxpayer is hardly getting value for money because of the perks allowances.

The solution lies in political accountability.  If you want prudence and restraint in public spending then consider the example set by Premier Helen Zille whose Western Cape MECs have had their benefits curtailed by the provincial version of the Minister’s Handbook which the DA introduced when it took power in that province.

If you think spending R206 million on a presidential compound at Nkandla and then justifying it in terms of the National Key Points legislation is a wise and proper use of public funds then return the Zuma government to power.