MPs’ pricey Olympic splash

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAK­I­NANA andisiwe.mak­i­nana@city­press.co.za

Par­lia­ment’s sports port­fo­lio com­mit­tee chair­per­son, Beauty Dlu­lane, has ex­tracted a free ride to the Rio Olympics from one of the or­gan­i­sa­tions the com­mit­tee over­sees – with­out the ap­proval of the na­tional leg­is­la­ture.

City Press has seen a let­ter from the SA Sports Con­fed­er­a­tion and Olympic Com­mit­tee (Sas­coc), the con­trol­ling body for all high­per­for­mance sports in South Africa, con­firm­ing that Dlu­lane and two other MPs would be “guests to join Team SA” for 10 days out of the 17-day sport­ing jam­boree.

The doc­u­ment, dated April 22 2016 and signed by Sas­coc pres­i­dent Gideon Sam, states that three MPs will fly busi­ness class from Jo­han­nes­burg to Rio de Janeiro and back. Their ac­com­mo­da­tion, un­spec­i­fied in the doc­u­ment, will be paid for “on a bed-and-break­fast ba­sis”.

Sas­coc is also fa­cil­i­tat­ing visas and other lo­gis­ti­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tive mat­ters.

Three op­po­si­tion par­ties re­acted with sur­prise that the trip was billed as an “over­sight visit”, since it was dis­cussed in two com­mit­tee meet­ings ear­lier this year.

Ini­tial plans were that Dlu­lane, another ANC MP and a DA MP would go. But City Press has since es­tab­lished that the DA has of­fi­cially de­clined to par­tic­i­pate in the trip, say­ing Sas­coc should be spend­ing its money on ath­letes and sports de­vel­op­ment in­stead of on in­ter­na­tional trips for politi­cians and ad­min­is­tra­tors.

The House chair­per­son re­spon­si­ble for com­mit­tees, Cedric Frolick, who in his of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity ap­proves all MPs’ travel and over­sight vis­its, told City Press he knew noth­ing about the sports com­mit­tee’s visit to the Rio Olympics.

“Whether it is a spon­sored trip or not, they must first get per­mis­sion from Par­lia­ment, from my of­fice – and I have not granted per­mis­sion like that,” he said.

Frolick con­firmed that he re­ceived no ap­pli­ca­tion by any MP from any com­mit­tee to at­tend the Rio Olympics in their ca­pac­ity as par­lia­men­tar­i­ans.

“We are not ath­letes; we are not com­pet­ing … at this stage, there is no one from Par­lia­ment go­ing to the Olympics,” he said.

City Press re­peat­edly tried to con­tact Dlu­lane over two days, but she did not re­spond to phone calls, SMSes or an email for­warded to her via the com­mit­tee’s me­dia fa­cil­i­ta­tor.

Sam con­firmed Dlu­lane ap­proached Sas­coc for spon­sor­ship.

“They raised it in Par­lia­ment. They asked, ‘Are you go­ing to in­vite us to go to Rio?’

“The an­swer they got from me was, ‘We are a bit tight, so we won’t be able to take all of you on the trip if it comes to that.’ They did ask for it,” said Sam.

Asked what MPs would do in Rio, Sam said: “Ask the chair­per­son of the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee if she is go­ing on hol­i­day. Ask Beauty [Dlu­lane], ‘Why are you tak­ing money from Sas­coc – are you go­ing on hol­i­day?’ We in­vited them be­cause that is part of their man­date for over­sight.”

It is un­der­stood that the sports com­mit­tee agreed that only the three mem­bers would go to Rio.

Sam ques­tioned why the me­dia was rais­ing this now, be­cause it was “nor­mal prac­tice” for such spon­sor­ship to take place since South Africa had re­turned to the Olympics in 1992.

The DA MP who de­clined the of­fer, Solly Malatsi, told City Press that the jun­ket to Rio, “in the guise of an over­sight trip, is eth­i­cally prob­lem­atic”.

“How will the com­mit­tee mem­bers who in­sist on go­ing to Brazil re­main in­de­pen­dent and ro­bust when Sas­coc has to ac­count to the com­mit­tee?”

Malatsi de­scribed the trip as “a spon­sored fi­esta” that would re­sult in Sas­coc re­mind­ing the Riobound MPs who called the tune when the com­mit­tee had to hold the con­trol­ling body to ac­count.

Eco­nomic Free­dom Fighters MP Pe­bane Moteka said he would not be part of the trip, adding that it was ANC MPs who wanted to go to Brazil.

“How do you ask for fi­nan­cial sup­port from peo­ple who ac­count to you? It can­not be cor­rect.”

The United Demo­cratic Move­ment’s Mnce­disi Fil­tane, who also sits on the com­mit­tee, said: “I would find it very strange for the com­mit­tee to be funded by Sas­coc when Sas­coc strug­gles to fund its own ath­letes.

“We would be se­ri­ously com­pro­mised. We are not sup­posed to be ask­ing for money from an en­tity we over­see. I would not go on such a dirty ticket.”

Ac­cord­ing to par­lia­men­tary guide­lines, Frolick must ap­prove all com­mit­tee trips in con­sul­ta­tion with Par­lia­ment’s le­gal ser­vices and the Speaker.

And ac­cord­ing to the Reg­is­ter of Mem­bers’ In­ter­ests pub­lished each year, MPs have to de­clare spon­sor­ships, in­come out­side Par­lia­ment and gifts greater than a stip­u­lated value.

Sam said Dlu­lane wrote to Sas­coc to ask about the value of the trip, telling Sas­coc CEO Tubby Reddy that “they need to de­clare that”.

Dlu­lane has pre­vi­ously run foul of par­lia­men­tary travel ar­range­ments. She was one of the Trav­el­gate fraud­sters who ac­cepted a plea bar­gain, plead­ing guilty to one count of fraud for R289 000 ac­crued in ser­vice ben­e­fits or mileage claims.

FREE RIDER ANC MP Beauty Dlu­lane (in­set) has asked Sas­coc to spon­sor an ‘over­sight visit’ to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games

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