Daily Dispatch

Minister’s job is a mighty sweet one - if you can just get it

- This report was written by Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisati­on.

Luxury travel, free housing and domestic staff along with salaries in the R2m-a-year bracket are all in store for the freshly minted members of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet.

AfricaChec­k has found that cabinet ministers will receive an annual salary of R2,401,633.

Deputy ministers will receive an annual salary of R1,977,795.

Deputy President David Mabuza’s salary is R2,825,470.

The ministeria­l handbook is a guide to the “benefits and privileges” that members of cabinet are entitled to. Here is a look at the most often used – and abused – privileges.

Private cars

Members of cabinet get 25% of their salary towards a private vehicle, its running and maintenanc­e as well as comprehenr­esidence sive insurance. At an allowance of just over R600,408, a minister will be able to buy a 2018 Mercedes-Benz C Class sedan or an Audi A4 2.0TDI Stronic.

Official vehicles

Ministers (and deputies) are allowed to purchase one car for official use in Pretoria as well as one in Cape Town. The value of each vehicle cannot be more than 70% of their salary.

At the current salary determinat­ions, a minister could therefore buy two cars to the value of R1.68m each.

Official vehicles can be replaced as soon as they have reached 120,000km or have been in use for five years. Cabinet members are allowed to use official vehicles “for any reasonable purpose”, including taking their children to school.

Accommodat­ion

Cabinet members can live free of charge in one state-owned in the capital of their choice. If they want to move into a second state-owned house for official purposes they must pay a “market-related” rent. The formula provided in the handbook to calculate this is (salary) x 1% divided by 12.

So R2,401,633 per minister x 1% / 12 = R2,001 per month. For this an ordinary South African can rent a “nice spacious room” in Boksburg or a “flat” in Gugulethu.

The state pays for a domestic worker to clean cabinet members’ official and private houses and also picks up the bill for renovation­s.

Travel

Cabinet members and their spouses may book first-class tickets for official internatio­nal journeys. They are also both entitled to 30 single business class flights per year within SA.

Dependent children get six single economy class flights per year.

If the cabinet member is not flying to a destinatio­n, the handbook allows for them to travel by train – including SA’s luxury Blue Train.

Rates for the Pretoria/Cape Town route range from R18,405 to R43,035 one way.

When travelling on official business, members, their spouses and dependent children can choose any hotel to stay in.

Ministers can take their children to school using their official vehicles Ministeria­l handbook

The guide to what ministers and

deputy ministers are entitled to

Other expenses

According to the ministeria­l handbook a cabinet members’ department can pay for all “reasonable” out-of-pocket expenses (“including gratuities and reading material, but excluding alcoholic beverages not consumed with a meal”) connected with the subsistenc­e of the members, their spouses as well as family members who need to accompany them”.

Because of all the variables and unknowns, AfricaChec­k says, “it is impossible to predict what the cabinet will cost South Africans beyond the members’ salaries and private car allowances.”

Fine print

As if cabinet members’ do not have enough scope in complying with the handbook, it is unclear which regulation­s they are supposed to follow at the moment.

As far as AfricaChec­k could establish, it currently sits awkwardly between the 2007 version of the ministeria­l handbook, cost-cutting measures announced in 2013 and a looming amendment of the handbook.

A spokespers­on for the Treasury, Jabulani Sikhakhane, was reported to have said that “it is too early to tell how department­s have responded to the cost-containmen­t measures”.

It has been reported that an inter-ministeria­l committee has completed a review of the handbook and it is expected to be presented to the cabinet.

Judith February, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies’ government, crime and justice division, argues that the amendment process should have involved the public. “It should be the subject of public scrutiny and discussion because after all, our public representa­tives spend public money when they spend money on accommodat­ion and cars and other benefits of office.”

“The handbook is extraordin­arily lenient in some respects allowing expenditur­e which could be excessive ordinarily. Ministers have therefore used the handbook as an excuse for expenditur­e which cannot be justified.”

These sentiments are echoed by Murray Hunter, spokespers­on for the Right2Know Campaign. “There’s no excuse for secrecy in these matters, not only because it involves the use of public funds for private comfort but because it shines a light on the distance between the lives of those who are elected to lead, and ordinary citizens.”

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