/ 11 March 2010

Cronin defends Transport Dept’s conference spending

Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin on Wednesday defended the Transport Department’s spending on four international conferences and accused the Democratic Alliance (DA) of being “totally mischievous and misleading”.

He was responding to a DA statement about the Transport Department spending R75,7-million on hosting four conferences between 2007 and 2009.

“It is the Minister of Transport, Sbusiso Ndebele, who provided all this information to the Democratic Alliance in response to a parliamentary question.

“However, the manner in which the DA has communicated this information is totally mischievous and misleading,” Cronin said.

South Africa had an obligation to host all these conferences and, as was the case with all such conferences, the host country was responsible for the costs.

“As government and the Department of Transport, we take our responsibility on the continent and internationally very seriously,” he said.

There were many transport challenges in Africa, and it was common cause that South Africa needed to take a leading role in improving transport coordination, safety and efficiency across the continent.

“We accept that the value of all such conferences needs to be constantly assessed.

“All these conferences were a success and the key objectives were achieved. There were also several bilateral engagements at these conferences,” Cronin said.

The department hosted four international conferences, which included the First African Union (AU) Conference of African Ministers responsible for Roads in October 2007 at a cost of R18 773 107,08, and the First AU Conference of Experts Responsible for Railway Transport in November 2007 at a cost of R4 169 386,02.

The Special Africa-Indian Ocean Regional Air Navigation Meeting in November 2008 cost R26 955 074,56, and the Second AU Conference of Ministers Responsible for Maritime Transport in October 2009 cost R25 821 353,15.

Thus, between 2006 and February 2010, an amount of R75,7-million was spent on conferences that 18 00 delegates attended, including ministers and their support staff from the African continent, he said.

Ndebele’s written reply shows in detail where the money was spent.

In a statement earlier, the DA’s Stuart Farrow criticised the department for “wasting exorbitant amounts” in view of the road infrastructure backlogs. — Sapa