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Des van Rooyen begs MPs to back budget changes

Dec 06 2016 20:42
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town – Des van Rooyen, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, delivered a desperate plea to MPs on Tuesday to approve adjustments to his department’s budget.

Opposition MPs of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) respectively grilled Van Rooyen over his connections to the controversial Gupta family and his department’s high irregular expenditure.

“He is in the news for all the wrong reasons,” the DA said, while the EFF added that Van Rooyen can’t be trusted to manage such an important department. “He’ll just take orders from the Guptas on how to spend money.”

Van Rooyen, however, said none of his departmental programmes say anything about the Guptas or Saxonwold (the suburb in Johannesburg where the controversial family had their residence).

“This budget vote is meant to allocate financial resources to 257 municipalities,” Van Rooyen said. “If we don’t support this vote we’re rendering local government useless. This is hypocritical,” he said referring to the DA’s and EFF’s objections to the budget vote. “In the local government elections the people voted for you to represent them.”

Zuma’s legal fees

MPs on Tuesday lambasted several ministers for irregular and wasteful expenditure during a question and answer session that preceded the budget votes of the various state departments.

On the Presidency, the EFF mentioned the fact that an unforeseen R1.2m was spent on legal fees. “It’s obviously for the President (Jacob Zuma) and his endless legal troubles. The State cannot be expected to pay for his decade long ducking and diving,” the party said.

‘Unnecessary’ foreign missions

The Department of International Affairs and Cooperation was singled out for its unoccupied offices in a number of countries that amounted to R4.4m.

The IFP asked the Department if it intends to reduce the number of “unnecessary” foreign missions, which amounted to R950m.

Deputy Minister Nomaindiya Mfeketo, however, responded, saying South Africa has “very few missions as it is”. “We said we wanted to be part of the global community and we must therefore have foreign missions everywhere in the world,” she said.

Department of Public Enterprises ‘shouldn’t exist’

On the Department of Public Enterprises' vote, the DA said the department should rather be called the “department of state capture”.

“The Minister (Lynne Brown), who is not present today has a lot to answer for,” the DA said, adding that the ministry should not exist in the first place. “It has failed dismally to keep our state coffers safe.”

The EFF wanted to know if the Department is looking into allegations in former Public Protector’s state capture report that the Eskom board was constituted improperly, to which Deputy Minister Bulelani Magwanishe responded that the Department was looking into the matter.

Social development squanders public money

Opposition MPs condemned the way in which Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini squandered public funds when she failed to arrive for an event in Cape Town, which cost taxpayers R1.2m.

The DA stated that Dlamini failed to hold South Africa's Social Security Agency (Sassa) to account for R1.5bn irregular expenditure.

A defiant Dlamini responded, saying her Department supports 300 000 children through the work they do.

Drought not government’s fault

Bheki Cele, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said in response to questions about the department that government has thus far contributed R1bn towards drought relief. “An additional R212m will be allocated, while North West farmers will receive another R100m.”

Cele added that opposition MPs shouldn’t blame government for the drought in the country.

As for the budget vote on the Department of Labour, the DA said Minister Mildred Oliphant is failing the more than 9 million jobless South Africans.

“She’s not accountable to Parliament and has in the past six years only attended one portfolio committee meeting – and that was for thirteen minutes,” the DA said.

Trade and industry’s ‘questionable’ payment

On the Department of Trade and Industry’s budget vote the DA took issue over a questionable payment of R200 000 – seemingly to the ANC-aligned Progressive Youth in Business. “This is public money that is being funnelled to an ANC front organisation,” the DA said, “and you can be sure that those responsible for this payment will be disciplined.”

Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, who was speaking on behalf of Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies who couldn’t attend the voting session, denied that the funds were paid to the Progressive Youth in Business, and said R100 000 was paid over to a technical company which applied for funding.

“In terms of the Department’s sponsorship policy the grant to the Progressive Youth Forum was not approved,” Patel explained.

Fikile Mbalula a ‘celebrity groupie’

According to the DA, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, fails to fulfil the mandate of his office. “He is a celebrity groupie who makes ridiculous promises to sports people like the Comrades runners, yet it takes you five months to make those payments,” the party said.

The National Freedom Party (NFP) asked Mbalula to give an update on South Africa’s readiness to host the Commonwealth Games in Durban in 2022, to which he responded that the plans to play host are going ahead.

“But we haven’t agreed on a budget yet. We’re still in negotiations with them. We’ll brief Parliament about these developments later,” Mbalula added.

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