Pretoria – Public service and administration minister Senzo Mchunu on Monday announced wide amendments to the ministerial handbook in a bid to curb government’s runaway expenditure on senior officials.
"The changes to the guide include: On the procurement of official vehicles, the cost of the vehicles is limited to R700 000 inclusive of VAT, maintenance plans and security extras; members [of the executive] and their spouses travelling by air transport must travel in economy class for all official domestic travel as well as for international travel where the travel time is less than two hours," Mchunu told journalists in Pretoria.
"The state shall not bear any costs in respect of security upgrades done at the members’ private residence; the rental for cellular telephones, as well as the cost of official calls, is subject to an annual limitation of R60 000."
Staff in support of a cabinet minister have been reduced from 13 to seven – excluding household aides – while a deputy minister can now have a support staff complement of five. A provincial premier’s staff has been reduced to seven from the previously allowed 12. An MEC is now allowed five members of staff, cut from 12.
"In respect of water and electricity, the state’s contribution will be limited to R5 000 per month per state-owned residence. No contribution will be made in respect of private residences. No cleaning materials, equipment and chemicals will be provided to residences. Members shall be responsible for all the costs related to domestic workers in the personal employ of the member," said the former KwaZulu-Natal premier.
"Travel by a spouse for official domestic trips is now limited to six domestic economy class travel trips per financial year if the member is required to attend official duties accompanied by a spouse or adult family member. Additional flight tickets for members’ private use is reduced from 30 to 20 single economy class tickets for use by the members or the members’ spouse."
Mchunu said government departments would not be responsible for the cost of gratuities and reading material for MECs or their spouses.
"The continued benefits for members upon relinquishing office is reduced to one calendar month. A member is permitted to occupy one state-owned residence for free of charge and where a member occupies a second state-owned residence, then the member is required to pay a rental and is personally responsible for the related tax implication," said Mchunu.
He said it was envisaged that similar changes would take place to cut the costs in the public service and the public sector in general, including for mayors, executive committees, directors general, and at state-owned entities.
"We are in a period that requires us to make difficult and complex decisions above our own in the national interest. Government is operating in an ever more complex and demanding environment, more so with regards to the fiscus. We are facing increasingly interdependent problems and are having to adjust to both the challenges as they present themselves," said Mchunu.
"Our approach to addressing the national budget and deficit has to be collective in nature, whilst adopting a holistic approach that yields substantial and coherent gains that are sustainable over time."
Mchunu said Monday’s commemoration of the International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD) took place at an appropriate time in South Africa as the nation recommits to fighting corruption.
"The IACD is celebrated annually on December 9 in recognition of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which was signed in Mexico in 2003. South Africa is one of the signatories to the convention and ratified it in 2004. This year’s theme is ‘United Against Corruption: Building a Culture of Accountability for Sustainable Development’,"said Mchunu.
"South Africa has to make a shift towards observing ethics and combatting corruption, both in the public and private sector. Corruption remains a major contributor to economic decline and ultimate social chaos and therefore it is even more important for South Africa to act swiftly against the scourge."
African News Agency (ANA)