Senzo Mchunu, the Minister of Public Service and Administration, revealed that the days of high-flying with A-grade security upgrades on personal assets are over for Members of Parliament and ministers.

Senzo Mchunu: It is time to trim the fat

Senzo Mchunu announced these changes on Monday, at a media briefing on the newly-established Ministerial Handbook. The need to cut costs where necessary comes at a time when fiscal constraints demand such a change, Mchunu told reporters.

“The Cabinet referred the guide for members of the executive back to a committee of ministers comprising the ministers of finance, public works and infrastructure as well as the public service and administration to revisit certain aspects in the guide for members of the executive to curb costs, while not compromising government operations,” he said.

This is the first time the Ministerial Handbook has been edited since it was introduced in 2007. It contains guidelines on the limitations MPs have in the usage of public funds, as well as a code of conduct.

These are the changes to ministers’ perks

According to Mchunu, these are the new changes that will take effect:

Vehicles:

Before the enactment of the new ministerial cut-offs, Members of the Executive were allowed to purchase vehicles with a value equivalent to 70% of their annual income. With the introduction of the handbook, however, this perk has been brought down to a fixed amount.

Ministers and MPs will have a capped spend of R700 000 on vehicles. This total includes VAT, maintenance plans and security add-ons.

Moreover, ministers still get to own two vehicles in both capitals (Pretoria and Cape Town), while Premiers and MECs can only have one.

Security upgrades and cellphone expenses:

Mchunu further revealed that the R100 000 annual input on securty upgrades has been scrapped. Bills on residential upgrades will be footed by members.

The cellphone allowance has also been capped at an annual fee of R60 000. This means that MPs and ministers get a R5 000 monthly cap on cellphone rentals and outgoing calls.

Flights and travel:

Ministers and their spouses can no longer fly business class, Mchunu announced. This applies to domestic and international flights where the travel time is less than two hours..

Moreover, spouses get a total of six free economy class domestic flights per year. This, Mchunu added, is something that is being looked at for future implementation on ministers and MPs. Also, complimentary flight tickets for private use have been reduced from 30 to 20.

Staff and personnel:

While the cut on staff personnel has a negative impact on our labour market, the handbook clearly states that there is a need to reduce ministers’ and MPs bloated support staff as follows:

  • Ministers: seven (from 13);
  • deputy ministers: nine (from five);
  • premiers: seven (from 12); and
  • MECs: five (from 12).

This only applies to office staff and does not take note of household aides. Mchunu also noted that employees currently working in their contractual term would be allowed to exhaust it before being let go.

Household, water and electricity allowance:

The handbook also makes mention of cut-offs in relation to members’ residences. It notes that members can only occupy one state-owned residence free of charge. Should a member be relieved of his or her duties, they will have one calendar month to clear the said residence.

Additionally, if a member occupies a second state-owned residence, they will be allowed to own the first free of charge but be expected to pay a rental fee for the second one. Also, the state will not foot the bill for private residences, cleaning materials, equipment, chemicals and domestic workers.

Only a capped R5 000 monthly contribution towards water and electricity will be offered by the state, in this regard.

The DPSA minister noted that this was one way of relieving pressure from the government’s fiscal constraints. He also noted that the handbook is a way of reminding ministers about the pledge they made to serve the public without the allure of corruption and wastage.

“We want you to be strong and brave, we must feel safe that we are going to overcome our problems and when this war against corruption. A fight against corruption must be a fight and not a massage. They cause fear amongst us and people have fear even in the higher echelons of power,” he added.

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Presh JM Reporter

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