Parly’s BIG spender

.R44 320 for be­ing chauf­feur-driven in a Mercedes-Benz

CityPress - - Front Page - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­press.co.za

Sec­re­tary to Par­lia­ment Gengezi Mgid­lana spent a whop­ping R44 320 on be­ing chauf­feur-driven in a Mercedes-Benz on one of his overseas trips. R1 020 was in­curred for a taxi trip to the air­port to catch a flight out of that city.In July, Mgid­lana was on a “study visit” in Bu­dapest, Hun­gary, where he was chauf­feur-driven in a Mercedes-Benz E-Class at R8 660 per day for five days. An ex­tra Par­lia­ment doc­u­ments re­veal that Mgid­lana’s pen­chant for the good life at tax­pay­ers’ ex­pense con­tin­ues un­abated, de­spite an outcry from op­po­si­tion MPs ear­lier this year.

His ex­pen­sive tastes have been con­demned as they took place in a year when Par­lia­ment was not pay­ing work­ers’ bonuses for the first time since 1994 and was cut­ting down on expenses.

City Press has pre­vi­ously re­ported that Mgid­lana and se­nior par­lia­men­tary staff spent al­most R2 mil­lion in “bench­mark­ing” trips, fly­ing busi­ness class and staying in five-star ho­tels in the UK and Turkey.

While in Lon­don, Mgid­lana stayed in a R14 050-per-night (R42 150 for three nights) room at the lux­u­ri­ous Con­rad Lon­don St James Ho­tel.

The doc­u­ments show that Mgid­lana was trav­el­ling to the Pres­i­dent Ho­tel in Bu­dapest, but it is not clear whether this is where he was ac­com­mo­dated dur­ing the trip.

What is clear is that Mgid­lana con­tin­ues to spend lav­ishly, de­spite the fact that the in­sti­tu­tion he leads is not able to pro­vide for the needs of MPs ow­ing to cost-cut­ting.

Just two weeks af­ter MPs be­rated him dur­ing a par­lia­men­tary de­bate for “wast­ing Par­lia­ment’s lim­ited re­sources on lux­ury overseas trips, fly­ing busi­ness class and staying in five-star ho­tels”, Mgid­lana spent five nights at the swanky Michelan­gelo Ho­tel in Sand­ton.

His stay there – in a suite that went for R6 200 a night – cost the tax­payer R31 653, while dur­ing the day he was chauf­fer-driven around Jo­han­nes­burg in a Mercedes-Benz. It is not clear what the chauf­feur ser­vice cost.

In July, Mgid­lana re­turned to the Michelan­gelo, this time oc­cu­py­ing a condo for six nights at the rate of R7 850 per night. He also ran up a bill of R3 215 on food and R730 on bev­er­ages, leav­ing a to­tal bill of R52 638 for the tax­payer to pick up.

Ac­cord­ing to a par­lia­men­tary doc­u­ment seen by City Press, Mgid­lana was in Jo­han­nes­burg for a se­cu­rity clus­ter meet­ing. The doc­u­ments also show that a Mercedes-Benz E-Class was hired for his seven days in the city.

How­ever, Par­lia­ment has de­fended Mgid­lana’s expenses, say­ing his trips were un­der­taken as “strate­gic im­per­a­tives” to help re­po­si­tion Par­lia­ment to “launch it­self on to a new de­vel­op­ment tra­jec­tory for the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion”.

Spokesper­son Manelisi Wolela said the in­ter­na­tional en­gage­ments had helped the in­sti­tu­tion to re­move in­ef­fi­cien­cies in the sys­tem and im­proved its busi­ness pro­cesses.

National Assem­bly Speaker Baleka Mbete also de­fended Mgid­lana when he came un­der at­tack from op­po­si­tion MPs in May, say­ing his trips had been ap­proved by his bosses.

She be­rated MPs for at­tack­ing a mem­ber of staff in­stead of deal­ing with the is­sue “ac­cord­ing to pro­ce­dures of Par­lia­ment”.

Mbete said Mgid­lana’s trips were done ac­cord­ing to pol­icy and sanc­tioned by Par­lia­ment’s pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers and there was noth­ing un­to­ward about it.

“There are struc­tures in Par­lia­ment. There is an au­dit com­mit­tee which, if there is a need, will look into any mat­ter that the ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity of Par­lia­ment ac­tu­ally re­quires them to look into,” she said at the time.

“I am shell-shocked,” said the United Demo­cratic Move­ment’s Nqabay­omzi Kwankwa this week.

In April, Kwankwa had re­quested that Mbete in­ves­ti­gate pos­si­ble ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the bench­mark­ing trips to European coun­tries that were re­ported ear­lier this year, say­ing it was in­cred­i­bly ir­reg­u­lar to al­low ju­nior man­agers to ap­prove expenses for their su­pe­ri­ors.

The bench­mark­ing trips were ap­proved by Mgid­lana’s sub­or­di­nates.

This week, Kwankwa told City Press that Mbete had sug­gested that they would put mea­sures in place to try to cut such expenses.

He de­scribed as “ar­ro­gance” the lux­ury life that Mgid­lana con­tin­ued to live at tax­payer’s ex­pense. “One won­ders what value these trips add to Par­lia­ment.”

Kwankwa said Mgid­lana would have to ac­count to the new fi­nan­cial man­age­ment com­mit­tee of the par­lia­men­tary over­sight com­mit­tee about the trips.

DA chief whip John Steen­huisen ac­cused Mgid­lana of be­hav­ing like a rock star, say­ing it was com­pletely un­ac­cept­able for a bu­reau­crat to live the good life at tax­pay­ers’ ex­pense while the most ba­sic func­tions of Par­lia­ment were be­ing com­pro­mised be­cause there is no money.

Steen­huisen re­vealed that the par­lia­men­tary li­brary no longer had ac­cess to a num­ber of jour­nals that MPs use for re­search be­cause sub­scrip­tions were not be­ing re­newed ow­ing to cost-cut­ting.

Steen­huisen said this meant MPs were un­able to do the most ba­sic re­search and could not rely on par­lia­men­tary re­searchers, be­cause all ac­cess to jour­nals had been stopped.

“It is frankly out­ra­geous, es­pe­cially in an en­vi­ron­ment where Par­lia­ment is be­ing con­stantly told to tighten its belt, while he throws it in ev­ery­one’s face,” he said.

The National Health Ed­u­ca­tion and Al­lied Work­ers’ Union (Ne­hawu), which rep­re­sents a ma­jor­ity of Par­lia­ment staff, said it was “se­ri­ously dis­turbed”, but not en­tirely sur­prised, by the rev­e­la­tion that Mgid­lana was con­tin­u­ing to en­joy lux­u­ries at Par­lia­ment’s ex­pense.

“This may be the tip of the ice­berg,” said Sthem­biso Tembe, chair­per­son of the Ne­hawu branch in Par­lia­ment. Tembe listed a num­ber of is­sues that Ne­hawu be­lieved Mgid­lana was get­ting away with in Par­lia­ment, in­clud­ing the non­pay­ment of per­for­mance bonuses for par­lia­men­tary work­ers – which he claimed was hap­pen­ing for the first time since 1994 – as well as the fact that Par­lia­ment was run­ning at a 23% va­cancy rate. “It’s shame­ful that work­ers went home emp­ty­handed; yet, he is spend­ing money on ex­pen­sive ho­tels. “But every dog has its day,” said Tembe. Mgid­lana had pre­vi­ously paid him­self a R71 000 ex gra­tia pay­ment that was meant to ad­dress the lack of notch pro­gres­sion for Par­lia­ment em­ploy­ees who had worked in the in­sti­tu­tion for many years with­out a notch ad­just­ment. He paid the money to him­self a mere three months af­ter join­ing the in­sti­tu­tion.

The swanky Michelan­gelo Ho­tel (left) and Bu­dapest, Hun­gary, where Mgid­lana spent five days

SIM­PLY THE BEST

FLASHY A car sim­i­lar to this one was used by Mgid­lana on a five-day trip to Bu­dapest

PHOTO: PAR­LIA­MENT’S WEB­SITE

LET THEM EAT CAKE Gengezi Mgid­lana

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