/ 10 March 2010

DA: Transport Dept spent millions on conferences

The Transport Department spent R75,7-million on hosting four conferences between 2007 and 2009, including nearly R12-million spent on a VIP shuttles, it emerged on Wednesday.

Democratic Alliance MP Stuart Farrow said, according to a written reply by Transport Minister Sbusiso Ndebele to a parliamentary question, millions more had been spent on various forms of entertainment, advertising, cocktail functions, and promotional gifts.

“Exorbitant amounts have been wasted by the Department of Transport on lavish conferences, even while the nationwide road infrastructure backlog continues to spiral,” Farrow said.

“One particularly shocking figure” was 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 African Union maritime transport ministers between October 12 and 16 last year, cost R25,8-million, with R4,6-million spent on VIP and delegate shuttle transfers, R1,7- million on branding and media relations, R860 000 on equipment and furniture rental, R1,5-million on technical and audio visual costs, and R933 000 on costs associated with cocktail, gala, exhibition, and plenary stages.

“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, the South African road network is in an advanced state of disrepair, and road maintenance backlogs across all three spheres of
government amount to around R164-billion,” Farrow said.

“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 do 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,” Farrow said.