The budget for spousal office in the presidency has almost doubled since President Jacob Zuma took office, and his 20 children are collectively entitled to 60 flights a year.
In a written reply to a question by the DA, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said the spousal office's budget was at R4 million in the 2005/06 financial year, but now stood at R15 517 500 after an "adjustment in October 2009".
The budget almost doubled in 2006/7 to R7.6m, increased slightly to R8,4m in 2007/8 and decreased a little to R8 076 709 in 2008/9.
Kgalema Motlanthe was president in the 2008/9 financial year and has always refused to let his spouse to be part of public engagements, which could explain a slight decrease during this period.
However, when Zuma - who has three wives and a fiance - took over last year, the budget was adjusted and increased from R8m to R15,5m.
Chabane said some of the expenses in the spousal office include personal support staff - a secretary and researcher - domestic air travel and accommodation, and international air travel and accommodation for official visits abroad approved by the president.
Expenses covered for the spouses include "cellular phones for spouses and their secretaries, equipment such as laptops and printers, and special daily allowance for incidental expenses during official journeys".
Chabane said although the spouses had no constitutionally defined roles, obligations or responsibilities, they were expected to provide support to the president and the republic.
"The state provides all reasonable administrative, logistical and other support to the spouses to enable them to meet these responsibilities in a manner that permits them actively to pursue their own careers and interests if they so desire.
"The state also may provide reasonable logistical support to the spouses to assist with the day-to-day logistical arrangements of dependent, schoolgoing children in the household.
"Staff are employed or deployed by the presidency to provide this support. This includes a private secretary for personal support and a researcher to assist in co-ordinating the necessary projects or activities of the spouses which are in support of the government's programme of action.
"The Presidency also provides office administration requirements to the spouses to enable them to fulfil activities related to their state or official functions."
Chabane repeated the Presidency's statement on the social-responsibility work of Zuma's wives.
"The spouses of the president are currently engaged in community work related to health (Mrs Thobeka Madiba-Zuma), agriculture and food security (Mrs Sizakele 'MaKhumalo' Zuma), as well as care and support to orphans and vulnerable children (Mrs Nompumelelo 'MaNtuli' Zuma)."
The expenses policy for children, according to the Presidency, "applies to children of the president regardless of the marital status of the child's parents".
Zuma has 20 children, and recently fathered a baby with Sonono Khoza, the daughter of soccer supremo Irvin Khoza.
Using the ministerial handbook to explain the children's benefits, Chabane said the dependent children "may collectively utilise up to 60 single domestic economy class flights per annum to visit and reunite with their parents within the country at the cost of the Presidency".
"This figure is regardless of the total number of qualifying children. Travel costs beyond the allotted tickets are to be borne by the president," Chabane said.
He said children under eight were entitled to be escorted by their child minder.
"The child minder's tickets are subtracted from the 60 allocated to the children."
The Presidency has failed to provide answers and figures to the DA's question on the breakdown of expenses on the president's children and spouses since he took office.
The Star, 17 March 2010