Zille publishes ‘no frills’ ministerial handbook

Western Cape premier Helen Zille on Tuesday released a new ministerial handbook in an effort to reduce excessive spending by provincial ministers.

In a statement, Zille said that the handbook had been developed in line with the “no frills” ethos of the Western Cape government and that all provincials ministers would be bound by the tighter rules and regulations.

“Last year, we passed the Business Interests of Employees Act to prevent all government employees and their families from doing business with the state. We have also strengthened our Forensic Investigation Unit to ensure that cases of corruption in provincial departments can be better detected, investigated and prosecuted.

“The Western Cape ministerial handbook is our latest initiative.”

She said the handbook was developed after numerous media stories on excessive spending by national ministers on lengthy stays at five star hotels, purchasing of expensive vehicles and the hosting of lavish parties.

When questioned about this most ministers indicated that the current ministerial handbook produced by the National Department of Public Service and Administration allowed them to do so, said Zille.

“In other words, the current ministerial handbook [which applies to all national and provincial ministers] facilitates and legalises this form of power abuse.

“That is why we have developed our own provincial ministerial handbook in line with the ‘no frills’ ethos of this government.”

According to the provincial handbook, any gifts or hospitality received that exceeded R350 must be disclosed. The amount in the national handbook is R500.

The provincial handbook also stipulated that a Cabinet member may not have a business interest in any entity conducting business with the provincial government if the Cabinet member together with one or more family members, partners or other business associates — or other Cabinet members — directly or indirectly owned or controlled more than 5% of the shares, stock, membership or other interest of that entity.

No such rule existed in the national handbook, said Zille.

On official vehicles, Western Cape ministers must ensure that the total purchase price of the vehicle chosen by the member does not exceed 40% of the inclusive annual remuneration package of the member.

The percentage in the national handbook is 70%.

On domestic and international flights, Western Cape ministers must use economy class. If a flight is longer than eight hours “members may utilise business class”.

According to the national handbook, Cabinet members were entitled to business class travel on domestic flights and first class travel on international flights.

The handbook was recently approved by the provincial cabinet, said Zille.

M&G publishes handbook
The Mail & Guardian drew the ire of the department of public service and administration recently upon the publication of the classified Ministerial Handbook.

Through its spokesperson, Dumisani Nkwamba, the department accused the newspaper of being irresponsible and populist, and of intentionally misleading the public.

“The [department] condemns the action by the Mail and Guardian to publish the Ministerial Handbook given the legal status of the document. Not being cognizant of your social responsibility, you not only undermine the rule of law but you encourage citizens to undermine the very same Constitution you claim to uphold. That is irresponsible!” Nkwamba wrote in an emailed response to the paper.

Nkwamba justified the classification of the handbook, saying that — as is standard for all documents submitted to Cabinet — it was classified when it was submitted to the Cabinet for approval in February 2007.

He said the newspaper “makes a petty attempt at being the custodian of the Constitution” and accused the M&G of perceiving itself to be above the law.

The M&G published a story on April 15 about its attempts to secure a copy of the Ministerial Handbook as well as an editorial on the issue.

The editorial stated that if the handbook is kept secret, it would do little to make free-spending ministers accountable for their actions. A copy of the handbook was also published. – Sapa

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