Embattled Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has been taken to task for allocating more than R143 million to the Department of Defence (DoD) in his medium term budget policy statement delivered this week.
Former Democratic Alliance shadow defence minister and now the official opposition’s shadow finance minister, David Maynier, said claims government is committed to reducing waste did not ring true when carefully scrutinising the adjusted estimates of expenditure tabled for the 2016/17 financial year by Gordhan on Wednesday.
Maynier gives no less than 14 examples to substantiate what he calls “billions of Rand of wasteful expenditure”.
Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s department is on the receiving end of a good amount of this largesse but it is not allocated to what should be priority agenda items for defence, including implementation of the Defence Review.
The DoD has been given just short of R96 million by National Treasury to spend on “leasing transport aircraft”. Maynier does not specify whether the extra funding is for military or VIP transport purposes given President Jacob Zuma’s apparent dislike of using the official presidential aircraft. Military aviation watchers point out he has not flown on Inkwazi since May this year, when it apparently started leaking fuel in Doha. Zuma has made use of more than four chartered aircraft, including a Global Express and a Boeing 727 as well as the Falcon 900 and Falcon 50 of 21 Squadron.
Gordhan also saw fit to allocate R47.28 million for DoD “guarding services”.
In November last year it was revealed that guarding services at the DoD headquarters building in Erasmusrand, which it shares with Armscor, are outsourced at a cost of over R11 million.
This drew immediate response from Maynier who said the money could be better used by making it available for students to pay university fees.
Another who felt it was not right to have private security at the headquarters of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), the Defence Ministry and the Defence Secretariat was military analyst Helmoed Heitman.
He said he would prefer to see “properly disciplined, well turned out soldiers in uniform ‘not camouflage and boots’ performing this duty”.
“My preference would be to have military security personnel with the proviso that those chosen are outstanding soldiers with the personality and bearing to make a good impression in addition to doing the job of being the security screen for the building,”
Other examples of “wasteful expenditure” cited by Maynier following Wednesday’s mini-budget include “VIP protection services at the police department” (R11 million), R950 million on “foreign missions” for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation and R18.5 million for “ministerial travel and outreach” at the Department of Social Development.
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