bling cars not an issue
PUBLIC Services and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi has come out in defence of the R42million "bling cars" spending spree by cabinet ministers and their deputies.
The government is reviewing its Ministerial Handbook in a bid to come up with billions of rands in savings.
Baloyi and Jeff Doidge, the Public Works minister, were assigned to review the handbook, which gives ministers a car allowance of more than R1million. Recently ministers used their allowances to splurge on luxury cars costing up to R1,2million.
This led to an outcry, with opposition parties questioning the morality of such extravagance in the recession. But speaking to Doidge at a press briefing in Parliament yesterday, Baloyi said the ministers needed their R1,2million luxury vehicles to carry out their work. "I'm talking about these as tools to do work. Ministers by the nature of their work have to be highly mobile," said Baloyi.
Cabinet ministers and their deputies have collectively spent a total of R750 000 on accessories like heated seats, rear-seat entertainment, and wood and leather steering wheels.
Baloyi could not say how the accessories helped ministers do their jobs better, saying only that they were entitled to spend the equivalent of 70percent of their salaries.
But when asked why some ministers were actually exceeding the 70percent limit - spending the equivalent of 74percent of their salaries on their cars - Baloyi said "there is always this issue about movement of figures and they don't always move in the same direction".
He also said ministers were permitted to use their official vehicles for party campaigning because it was impossible to say when a minister ceases to be a minister.
Baloyi conceded that he was "bothered" that the "bling cars" were seen as a slap in the faces of the poor.
"It does bother us and that's why we are considering options," he said.
Doidge meanwhile revealed that the government would spend R150 million this year on renovating ministers' offices and homes, and buying new houses for some of the ministries.
He asked the media to not only scrutinise the Cabinet but to look at the millions spent on three parliamentary villages. He defended the government's purchase of a R3million official residence for Bheki Cele, the national police commissioner.