Spokesperson for Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele, Tiyani Rikhotso, was this morning quoted as saying that the information given to Parliament regarding the cost of Minister Ndebele’s hotel stays since 2009 was “incorrect”.
In reply to a DA parliamentary question, the Transport Minister yesterday revealed that he had spent almost R1, 4 million on luxury hotel accommodation since he began his term in 2009.
So, if the information supplied to Parliament in Minister Ndebele’s name was incorrect, why then was it approved by the Minister for release?
This is the third time in recent weeks that a government department has dismissed embarrassing information disclosed in a parliamentary reply as being “incorrect”:
• Former Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde said the information revealed by her department regarding the multimillion rand cost of refurbishing the President’s official residences was incorrect, and that the planned renovations had actually been cancelled; and
• Following the release of information regarding the R1.5 million in hotel bills that Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson had incurred since 2009, the Minister claimed that senior members in her department had given the wrong information to Parliament.
Either the relevant ministers are attempting to, in the face of public outcry about their reckless spending decisions, distance themselves from what is actually correct information, or they are allowing incorrect information to be submitted to Parliament in their name.
Whichever explanation is true, both are cause for concern.
I will today be submitting follow up questions to Minister Ndebele to determine how many days he has spent in his official residences in Cape Town and Pretoria since he assumed office in 2009, whether he has stayed in hotels in Cape Town and Pretoria despite his official residences being available and if so, why he chose to waste state funds in this way. I will also be asking the Minister why he signed off on information regarding his hotel bills that his spokesperson has now said is incorrect.
It is high time that Ministers clean up their acts, both in terms of curbing reckless spending and in terms of ensuring that the information released to Parliament and the public is accurate. Their failure to do otherwise represents a concerning disregard for the institution of Parliament, and the responsibility of Ministers to place the needs of the South African people first.