Malusi Gigaba’s wife has cost South Africa's taxpayers nearly R900‚000 in official travelling expenses during his brief spell as finance minister.
In February this year, DA shadow finance minister, David Maynier, asked Gigaba whether his wife, Norma, had accompanied him on any officials trips to the US‚ Japan‚ China and/or Singapore in October and November 2017, as well as the total amount spent on official trips since April 2017.
In response, Gigaba said his wife had accompanied him to the Fifth Annual South Africa Tomorrow Investor Conference in New York from November 9 to 10 last year as well as to a Non-deal Roadshow in Asia from November 12 to 17. Those trips included air tickets of R122‚773.29‚ daily expenses of R15‚942.15 and R726.94 on incidentals.
In total, taxpayers footed the bill of R873‚366.68 on Norma Gigaba to travel abroad with no official capacity.
Maynier said in a statement: "The fact is Norma Gigaba had no official duties on the investor roadshows and taxpayers, who have been pushed to the limit by tax increases, should never have had to cough up for what were, in reality, a series of intercontinental shopping trips.
“The former Minister of Finance‚ Malusi Gigaba‚ who was responsible for the implementation of cost containment measures‚ and who regularly called for greater efficiency in the use of public funds‚ should have set an example when it came to belt-tightening in South Africa."
Maynier said the international trips could not be justified, “In the end‚ even if the expenses are in line with the guidelines set out in the Ministerial Handbook it was simply wrong and the minister should do the right thing and ‘pay back the money’ to National Treasury.”
After the American trip‚ Gigaba's spokesman told Business Day that "the minister had been transparent about his wife travelling with him and that this was well within the law. Other ministers and Gigaba' s predecessors had done likewise and it was a common practice".
In May last year, EFF MP, Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi, asked Gigaba if it was necessary and what the "wisdom" was of taking his wife along on a trip to New York, to which he responded, "My wife did not attend any official meeting, anywhere".
"She went shopping!" yelled somebody from the DA bench.
Gigaba was appointed as finance minister on March 31 last year and, despite a court judgment that Gigaba acted unconstitutionally and lying about his connection to the Guptas, was moved from that portfolio to home affairs on February 27 this year.
The ministerial handbook on 'International Official Journeys' reads:
- Members and their spouses (or alternatively an adult family member accompanying the Member in official capacity instead of spouse) are entitled to first class travel for official purposes at the expense of the Department concerned.
- The costs for official journeys abroad by Members, and their spouses or adult family members accompanying them in official capacity, are for the account of the relevant Department.
- It is not a requirement that the VIP lounges at international airports be used; however, for security purposes, utilisation thereof is encouraged. Where appropriate and if preferred, first or business class lounges could be utilised. To avoid the cost of unnecessary reservation of VIP lounges, the Department of Foreign Affairs should be informed of the travelling Member’s preference well in advance.
- Dependent children who accompany their parents on official visits abroad do so at the cost of the parents.
The Ministerial Handbook on guidelines on international travel for ministers says:
- Ministers and Deputy Ministers may travel on official visits abroad if these are essential, in the national interest and with due regard to the availability of Departmental funds.
- International visits should offer real value and benefit to the Republic of South Africa (RSA).
- The absolute minimum number of officials should accompany members. Taking the necessity of financial discipline into account, Members should exercise their discretion and apply their minds cautiously in determining the number of officials, and the feasibility of their spouses accompanying them abroad. South Africa Missions abroad are available, within the constraints of their capabilities, to render support services to travelling Members, provided prior notice of the visit is given.
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