Thursday, November 27, 2008

Equality for all

National departments spend R2.19bn on hotels, travel and restaurants

18 out of 26 national departments spent R2.19 billion during 2007/2008, a R356 million (or 19%) increase from the previous financial year.

This drastic increase in spending is indicative of government departments' complete disregard for the country's worsening economic climate where consumers are reeling from high levels of debt and spiraling food and fuel prices and have had to cut back drastically on their spending.

Furthermore, last year Finance Minister Trevor Manuel used the tabling of his medium term budget policy statement to berate national departments for their excessive expenditure stating the following:

"National Department's will be asked to find efficiency savings of about R2.3 billion over the next three years by limiting spending on unnecessary entertainment, travel and hotel accommodation, misplaced branding and communications initiatives and poorly managed consultancy services and related frills."

It is clear a number of national departments have simply chosen to ignore Minister Manuel's admonishments as well as his request to cut back on their wasteful expenditure.

To date, 18 out of 26 national departments have responded to the DA's annual parliamentary Across all 18 departments, a total of R2.19 billion was spent in 2007/08, of which
R593 million was spent on accommodation,
R1.4 billion on traveling
and R156 million on food (these figures are probably higher because a number of departments only provided partial information).

Of the 18 departments, nine have provided full information for each category, for each of the last three years (others have either refused or failed to provide a full response).

Using those nine departments as an indicator, it is clear there have been substantial increases in expenditure in each category since last year:

Accommodation costs have increased by around 42% from 2006/07;
Travel costs have increased by around 4%; and
Food costs have increased by around 69%.

Across all categories, the average increase in total expenditure is around 15% from last year. Within each category, the majority of departments have increased their expenditure, the details of which are set out in the accompanying documents.

Significant trends in expenditure include:

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development:

At R381 million, Its overall increase in expenditure - 64% - represents an increase of some R149 million
Accommodation - R 111million (an increase of R30.3 million or 37%);
Travel - R264 million (an increase of R118 million or 80%)
Food - R5.4 million (an increase of R932 000 or 20%).

The Department of Public Works:

an increase in expenditure of 175% or R49 million

It spent 298% or R10.8 million more on accommodation
150% or R33 million more on traveling.

The Department of Land Affairs:

An increase of 62%, or R50 million more than last year.
Accommodation - R42 million (an increase of R21 million or 105%);
Travel - R82.7 million (an increase of R25.9 million or 45%)
Food - R 7.2 million (an increase of nearly R3.1 million or 76% from 2006/07).

The Department of Housing:

An increase of R6.8 million or 32% from last year.
Accommodation, up 114% or R4 million from last year, to R7 million.

The majority of departments do not elaborate on how or why money was spent, choosing rather simply to provide a figure, without any context.

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