State will have to ac­count for R23m ticket splurge

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

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.”

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