Questions over fresh Travelgate claims
PARLIAMENT has questioned the basis on which ID leader Patricia de Lille has claimed that some MPs had been pocketing thousands by abusing their travel claims.
De Lille this week announced that she would not hesitate to take legal action to obtain all MPs’ travel records if an Access to Information application she has already made does not succeed.
She first raised alarm about a possible Travelgate II in November last year, saying a culprit in her own party has alerted her to the fact that MPs may be skimming off thousands by using their own cars to drive between Parliament and their homes when flights would be much cheaper. Parliament has refused to provide a breakdown of the travel details of MPs, saying this could pose a security risk.
Speaker Max Sisulu advised De Lille last year to rather use the Promotion of Access to Information Act – which would give MPs a say in whether their personal infor mation is revealed – or to raise the matter in Parliament’s Rules Committee. She has now followed both routes, but fears it may not yield results.
In a statement yesterday, Parliament’s Communications Services, however, said De Lille’s comparison between the costs of motor vehicle journeys with air travel journeys “is not entirely an accurate comparison because even if MPs travel by air, Parliament pays the costs of their transport to and from airports”.
De Lille is sticking to her guns that MPs could pocket thousand of rands per trip if they take to the road rather than the air. Parliamentary rules allows MPs 86 plane tickets each year, but they get reimbursed in cash if they travel by road at AA rates of R3.69 a km.
De Lille said her calculations showed a 2 786km return road trip from Cape Town to Joburg, for example, could result in a claim of R10 280.
De Lille said yesterday that Parliament’s response missed the point she was trying to make – that MPs have oversight over ministers, who are obliged to reveal their travel expenses, but MPs do not set an example.
“It is about protecting the integrity of Parliament and to prevent another Travelgate”, De Lille said.