Monday, November 24, 2008

MPs living in R1000-a-night hotels

It's nice to see that the new people are continuing where the others left off. Nothing is too much for our esteemed public servants. We've swapped one load of bad rubbish with another batch of bad rubbish. I have to believe that the public purse is straining.

But be a good little sucke...um, taxpayer and be glad that the poor didems are not suffering the discomfort of living in houses that don't meet their high expectations.

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Status-conscious new ministers and MPs are preferring to stay at a five-star R1 000-night hotel at the taxpayers' expense rather than in the modest parliamentary village while waiting for official accommodation.

And there have been reports of two Cabinet ministers at odds over who is to live in one of the ministerial houses.

An insider close to the Department of Public Works says there is a shortage of ministerial housing and blamed this on the failure by former public works minister, the late Stella Sigcau, to approve buying land and building more houses for ministers years ago.

The problem had been exacerbated by the resignations of former deputy finance minister Jabu Moleketi and his wife, former public service and administration minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, who had shared a house.

Their successors, who are not a couple, need two houses.

Several newly sworn-in MPs are staying at the five-star Mandela-Rhodes hotel as their houses are "undergoing refurbishments".

"We did not get houses as they are fixing all the broken stuff. I'm sure when we return (in January) they will be ready," said one new ANC MP.

Also without a house is Eastern Cape ANC chairperson Stone Sizani, sworn in as an MP last month. He is staying at a hotel when in Cape Town because he has his eye on the house occupied by newly appointed Deputy Defence Minister Fezile Bhengu.

Bhengu will vacate his house at the parliamentary village next month.

Both Provincial and Local Government Minister Sicelo Shiceka and Public Works Minister Geoff Doidge want to live in the house vacated by Shiceka's predecessor, Sydney Mufamadi, who resigned from the Cabinet.

A Government official said Shiceka claimed that he was entitled to Mufamadi's house on the basis of having the same portfolio.

However, Doidge had already moved into the house.

An MP, who declined to be named, said yesterday that he was not sure why Doidge had chosen Mufamadi's house and not that of the former public works minister Thoko Didiza.

The MP said: "But there are no rules that dictate that your portfolio entitles you to the same house (that was) occupied by your predecessor, unless you are the speaker, the president or deputy president (who have designated housing). But I understand that Sicelo was a little irritated."

However, an official at the ministerial complex said the fight for the house was between the two ministers' administrative assistants, "and not necessarily between the two men".

The housing problem has prompted Doidge to propose a policy on the criteria for allocating "prestige accommodation" for ministers.

He said the problem could worsen next year when the number of ministers in Cabinet increased, while the number of houses stayed the same.

He said the current ratio was almost one house to one minister and that the shortage had started when the number of deputy ministers was increased.

The ANC and its alliance partners have already suggested a two-tier Cabinet system that could see the next national executive growing bigger if the ruling party wins the elections.

Shiceka's spokesperson, Vuyelwa Qinga-Vika, said Shiceka stayed at a hotel when in Cape Town because Parliament was due to close for the holidays.

She denied there had been a clash between Shiceka and Doidge.

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