MEC defends world cup tickets claims

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for finance Ina Cronjé yesterday downplayed allegations by t he Democratic Alliance that the provincial government had spent public money to purchase tickets for officials to watch the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

The DA recently launched an outcry about taxpayers' money allegedly being used to buy tickets for senior government officials in the province.

In a statement the DA said it had asked Cronjé for clarification on the expenses.

"This purchase of tickets for members is in clear contravention of a directive from the National Treasury, which classified expenditure of public money on World Cup tickets as irregular.

"The DA wishes to establish how the tickets were purchased and how and to whom they were distributed."

Addressing the media in Pietermaritzburg yesterday, Cronjé said each and every cent spent on, or for the World Cup, had been budgeted for some three to four years ago.

"All 2010 World Cup issues, including infrastructure and stadia development, had been budgeted for by the office of the premier, so not a single government department spent money on tickets or anything to do with the World Cup."

Cronjé said the budget for 2010 projects included sports development and all had been centred through the premier's office.

"Various departments had been part of a sub-committee that dealt directly with World Cup matters."

She said when the actual hosting of the tournament finally arrived, they as provincial government formed or developed a policy, which was discussed thoroughly and extensively.

"We needed to be sure of the role the provincial government will have to play and how we planned to achieve our desired objectives. Our vision was to showcase the province of KwaZulu-Natal as a tourist and investment destination of choice.

"We could not miss the opportunity of marketing the province to all the high-profile people and visitors that were here for the tournament," Cronjé said.

"We knew that if we don't do it, no one would do it for us. We focused on the tourism side because we knew that if people had a good stay, they were likely to return. The premier encouraged us to cash in on what was happening," she said.

A steering committee was then established and "a lot has been achieved".

Cronjé added that the developed plan was being monitored. "I am surprised some people think we should not have welcomed or hosted our visitors."