DA questions Rugby World Cup trips for two parliamentary sports committee members
Democratic Alliance (DA) sport shadow minister Tsepo Mhlongo says a parliamentary sports portfolio committee meeting scheduled for this week was “unceremoniously cancelled” after the chair and another member were whisked off on a luxury trip to Japan.
Chairwoman Beauty Dlulane and committee member Albert Seabi are at the Rugby World Cup as guests of MultiChoice‚ the DA alleges.
The DA also alleges that the all-expenses trip amounts to R600‚000.
The committee had been scheduled to meet on Tuesday‚ October 15‚ but the meeting was cancelled the night before.
Mhlongo claimed the trip came about after a senior SuperSport official‚ in his capacity as a board member of SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids)‚ addressed the sport portfolio committee last month.
“The DA has written to the committee chairperson to request clarity regarding this sponsored trip‚” Mhlongo said in a statement‚ pointing to the costs of the trip allegedly being covered by Saids and MultiChoice.
“According to sources‚ R600‚000 was spent on this trip for the two members.”
Mhlongo said he had also submitted written questions to sports minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Parliament chair of committee chairpersons Cedric Frolick told TimesLIVE that he was unaware of Dlulane and Seabi’s trip but denied that the meeting was postponed because of the pair’s unavailability.
“I can’t comment on the ethical nature of chairperson of a committee‚” said Frolick when asked if it was ethical for MPs to accept gifts or luxury trips from private entities.
“I can comment on the meeting that has been postponed‚” said Frolick‚ who added the reason for the postponement of the committee meeting was because a report that was to be tabled was not ready for consideration by the committee.
“Originally these reports were supposed to be considered on Friday‚ October 11.
"All members‚ including your informants who I know are the DA members‚ agreed they don’t want to meet on a Friday; they will rather meet on Tuesday‚ October 15‚ which was two days ago‚” said Frolick on Friday.
“Towards October 15 I received an application from that committee‚ I think it was dated October 14‚ to say the report has not been circulated to members yet because the report is not ready.
“I granted the postponement because I can’t approve and say the meeting must go ahead if they don’t have business in front of them. That would be fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
“In light of that [the report not being ready] I granted them the postponement of the meeting.
“In the application for the postponement of the meeting that I have there is nothing about trips to Japan or MultiChoice that you are talking about.
"I then gave them permission to meet next week. Because why would they meet if they don’t have the report ready?” said Frolick.
“Committees have scheduled meetings and they can’t just cancel or postpone sessions without a valid reason.
"And in this case a valid reason for me‚ it has nothing to do with all the things you are talking about.
"The valid reason is that the report that was to be considered on the 18th and the committee agreed they didn’t want to meet on a Friday.
“All of them agreed. Your informants in the DA were part of the decision not to continue with the meeting on a Friday already.
“The report is still not ready. I will have to check with our research services to find out how far we are with the report.
“The meeting of October 11 was postponed due to a decision of the committee including DA members meeting on Tuesday‚ October 15 on request of research and content advisors.
"The committee is still working on report from the Arts an Culture desk of the department.”
A Saids official said the body had not paid for any parliamentary member to attend the World Cup.
The SuperSport official‚ who is in Japan‚ had yet to respond to questions sent to him on email and WhatsApp on Thursday morning.
MultiChoice said there was nothing untoward about sponsored trips to Japan.
“MultiChoice Group has formally invited stakeholders through the appropriate official channels to attend the 2019 Rugby World Cup‚” Joe Heshu‚ the group’s executive for corporate affairs‚ said in a written response to questions.
“Invitations have been extended in order to share the work of our fully transformed sports broadcast production teams who are playing a crucial role in the international broadcast of this major tournament.
“These stakeholders are also thereby afforded an opportunity to meet with other leaders and officials in the industry‚ to experience and understand the complexities and commercial realities of hosting global sports events.
“MultiChoice makes a significant investment in production costs‚ broadcast fees‚ technology and infrastructure development‚ to ensure the best possible production of and access to sporting events‚ such as the RWC in Japan.”
Advocate Paul Hoffman of Accountability Now‚ said MPs should avoid sponsored trips from private institutions or parastatals.
Accountability Now is a non-government organisation devoted to ensuring that the rule of law is upheld and enforced by governments entities and private institutions.
“MPs should as far as possible avoid paid-for trips by private institutions‚” Hoffman said.
“This is to avoid a situation in future whereby there is an issue with that entity or private institution that is in front of the committee and needs the committee to deliberate on it.
“MPs should avoid that simply to remove any perceptions that the public or the media may have regarding a certain trip undertaken by an MP at the expense of a private sponsor.”