State will have to account for R23m ticket splurge
helped out with government bail-outs and guarantees.
The final tally could be even higher, as not all government departments have yet responded to parliamentary questions about their spending. Five departments have so far racked up a combined spend of R10.9m, while the Industrial Development Corporation splashed out R12m on 2 700 tickets for clients and staff.
Signal regulator Sentech forked out $140 400 in December for 96 seats.
Corporate communications head Polly Madiko said this translated (at the time) to R1.040m, although a reply to a parliamentary question by the Department of Communications indicated that the bill was higher, at R1.067m. Madiko also said that as a “cost-cutting” measure, so-called “Extra Strong” tickets had been bought, rather than paying for suites, but the figures don’t seem to add up as Extra Strongs are the cheap R140 tickets.
Madiko justified the expenditure by saying: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event and as a state-owned enterprise it is imperative that Sentech supports the event.”
The other departments – Science and Technology, Tourism, Communications, Public Service and Administration, Trade and Industry – also tried to vindicate their spending by arguing the tickets would be used either for rewarding staffers’ hard work and team-building, or to schmooze investors.
But Godi was having none of it. “World Cup or no World Cup, the laws of the country apply,” he said, referring to the Public Finance Management Act, which regulates gover nment spending. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan earlier this month warned that such spending on World Cup tickets and paraphernalia would be deemed fruitless and wasteful, and in breach of the act and the Code of Conduct for Public Servants.
Audits of departments’ 2009/10 financial statements get under way in September and Gordhan has asked Auditor-General Terence Nombembe to pay special attention to spending on World Cup tickets and paraphernalia. Once he has scrutinised the books, it will be over to Scopa to get explanations from officials.
Godi said Scopa would want to know who signed off on the spending and what measures had been taken against them. He scoffed at departments’ attempts to justify the spending. “Except for the Department of Sport and Recreation, because the event is directly linked to what they do, these are just excuses to justify the expenditure of public funds.
Nehawu’s spokesman, Sizwe Pamla, said the Cosatu affiliate was “deeply shocked” by the “open defiance” of Gordhan’s call for prudence: “Our union finds it totally unacceptable that our townships are burning because of poor service delivery and millions go hungry every day – yet the state bureaucrats are stealing taxpayers’ money to watch soccer.”