Thursday, May 5, 2011

Zille’s Handbook

May 3 2011

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille

There will be no more first-class or business-class domestic flights for Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and her cabinet, nor will they enjoy state-sponsored credit cards or five-star hotel stays.

The DA leader unveiled the ministerial handbook for all Western Cape MECs today. 

The national ministerial handbook, which guides executive spending, is produced by the Department of Public Service and Administration and applies to all national ministers and MECs. 

But soon after taking office, Zille said her government would review the handbook and introduce austerity measures. 

This was at a time when cabinet ministers were reportedly buying top-of-the-range cars and staying in five-star hotels. 

They justified their purchases by saying they fell within the ministerial guidelines. “That is why we have developed our own provincial ministerial handbook in line with the ‘no frills’ ethos of this government,” Zille said. 

“Western Cape provincial MECs will be bound by these tighter rules and regulations.” 

She and her cabinet have been cutting costs in line with this principle for some time, but the release of the handbook makes the measures official. 

Zille also announced that the provincial handbook would be made available to the public. 

“We do not agree that the ministerial handbook should be classified as a confidential document, requiring a Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) application to gain access to it,” she said. 

“Any member of the public should be able to use this handbook to hold the provincial executive accountable for the way in which they spend taxpayers’ money.” 

Last month, Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi told the Mail & Guardian that the handbook was classified and could be accessed only through a Paia request. 

                                                                   Richard Baloyi

This morning, Zille announced that: 

MECs will not be staying in five-star hotels. 

The total purchase price of an official vehicle chosen by an MEC may not exceed 40 percent of the inclusive annual remuneration package of the MEC and must include VAT, accessories, extras and a maintenance plan. This is a substantial cut from the current threshold for vehicle cost of 70 percent of the inclusive annual remuneration package of a minister.

MECs may hire only Group D (1600cc and automatic) rental vehicles at airports unless it is impractical for the required purpose. 

MECs may fly only economy class domestically and on international flights that are less than eight hours, while they may fly business class for international flights longer than eight hours. At present, ministers are entitled to business-class travel on domestic flights and first class on international flights. 

There will be no department-sponsored credit cards in the name of an MEC.

MECs will be prohibited from doing business with the state. 

While the national handbook states that members must disclose any gifts or hospitality received that exceeds R500, the Western Cape handbook lowers the threshold to R350. 

There will be no direct payment to an MEC for security to be installed at his or her private residence, but the provincial Department of Public Works will be solely responsible for the installation of security measures. 

Last month, the Sunday Times reported that Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka  justified his use of state funds for a range of personal costs as they were allowed by the ministerial handbook. 

                                                               Sicelo Shiceka

Baloyi said last month that the Executive Members’ Ethics Amendment Bill would be published soon for public comment, while the review of the ministerial handbook was still under way. 

A review of the ethics code was called for last year by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela after she found that President Jacob Zuma and members of the cabinet had missed the deadline for declaring their business and financial interests. 

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