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DA: Statement by Stuart Farrow, Democratic Alliance shadow minister of transport, on wasteful expenditure (10/03/2010)

10th March 2010

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A reply to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question has revealed how exorbitant amounts have been wasted by the Department of Transport on lavish conferences, even while the nationwide road infrastructure backlog continues to spiral. The Department managed to spend R75.7-million on hosting four conferences between 2007 and 2009, which included nearly R12-million spent on VIP shuttle services, and millions more spent on various forms of entertainment, advertising, cocktail functions and promotional gifts.

All the key facts and figures follow below, and a copy of the reply can be downloaded from the DA Media Centre.

One particularly shocking figure is the R27-million spent on the Special Africa-India Ocean Regional Air Navigation Meeting, in which R16-million was spent on functions, R2.4-million on venue hire, R1.2-million on advertising, and a staggering R4.6-million on VIP transport.

Altogether, R11.73-million appears to have been spent on VIP shuttle services at these four events. Millions more were spent on air transport.

Another event, hosting AU maritime transport ministers between 12 and 16 October last year, cost an astounding R25.8-million. At this event, another R4.6-million was spent on VIP and delegate shuttle transfers, while R1.7-million was spent on "branding and media relations", R860,000 on "equipment and furniture rental", R1.5-million on "technical and audio visual costs", R933,000 on costs associated with cocktail, gala, exhibition and plenary stages.

At a conference for AU ministers responsible for roads, R623 676 was spent on "entertainment" and R5.4-million on "accreditation centres and marquees". The total amount spent came to R 18.7-million, for 450 guests, at a cost of R41 718 a guest. This was eclipsed by the R59 900 per guest spent on the Special Africa-India Ocean Regional Air Navigation Meeting held in late 2008, where R2.7-millon was allocated to travel and accommodation for guests, R4.6-millon on transport for delegates and R2.4-millon for venues and facilities.

The enormous amounts that have been spent on entertainment, advertising, lavish banquets and freebies simply does not make sense when the Department of Transport is desperate for funds, with the South African road network is in an advanced state of disrepair and road maintenance backlogs across all three spheres of government amounting to around R164 billion.

There is no evidence that any of these conferences have achieved anything remotely worth the R76-million that was spent on them. Indeed, the government itself appears to regard these conferences as not even remotely important, since of the four conferences, only one was attended by the minister of transport. The only other cabinet minister to so much as stop by at these meetings was then deputy president Baleka Mbete, who attended the opening address of the Special Africa-India Ocean Regional Air Navigation Meeting.

The fact is that we simply cannot afford to continue spending such massive amounts of money on events which rarely have a direct impact upon the improvement of transport services.

DETAILS OF THE CONFERENCES:

[Download the full parliamentary reply]

1. The 2nd African Union Conference on Ministers responsible for Maritime Transport

Total Spent: R25 821 353
Total attendees: 450
Dates: 12 to 16 October 2009
Cost per guest: R57 380

Spending included:
R125 363 on "promotional material: bags, gifts, t-shirts"
R300 000 on "correspondence material" for delegates
R4.5-million of "VIP and delegate shuttle transfers"
R859 697 on "Creative elements: photography, videography, broadcast and décor"
R1.7-million on "branding and media relations"
R456 000 on stage production.

2. AU Conference of African Ministers responsible for Roads

Total spent: R18 773 107
Total attendees: 450
Dates: 15 to 19 October 2009
Cost per guest: R41 718

Spending included:
R588 282 on "branding" including "banners, design, logo, invitations, leaflets, menu, agenda, directional signage, décor for cocktail party and gala dinner, plants for marquees and landscaping"
R623 676 on "entertainment"
R137 484 on "Computer trolleys, folders, pens, conference bags"
R1.8-millon on "vehicle rental for Minister and shuttle services"
R1.1-million on "video and photography"
R5.4-million on "accreditation centres, marquees, kitchen, operation rooms..."
R104 319 on "VIP lounges at airport and refreshments"
R489 800 per diem for AU staff
R131 170 on promotional flag material

3. The 1st AU Conference of experts responsible for Railway Transport

Total Spent: R 4 169 386
Total attendees: 450
Dates: 20 to 21 November 2007
Cost per guest: R 9 265

Spending included:
R 1.5-millon on "conference equipment, IT, stand, sound, stage"
R684 000 on "vehicle rental for shuttle service"

4. The Special Africa-India Ocean Regional Air Navigation Meeting: AFRIRAN

Total spent: R26 955 074
Total attendees: 450
Dates: 24 to 29 November 2008
Cost per guest R59 900

Spending included:
R16-million on "coordinating the events, invitations, RSVP, branding, staffing, media coverage, printing, welcoming function and gala dinner."
R4.6 million on "...ground transport"
R2.7-millon for air travel

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