ANC flays DA over travel costs of R4.2m

Budget and treasury head Retief Odendaal with mayor Athol Trollip and deputy mayor Mongameli Bobani

The Nelson Mandela Bay coalition government is under attack from the ANC, which believes it is not sticking to its promise of cutting down on wastage.

Flights, overnight trips and hired vehicles have come under the spotlight as it emerged that more than R4-million has been spent by the municipality over the past 11 months.

The bosses at City Hall have fought back, saying the R4.2-million spent between July 1 and June 9 was significantly less than when the ANC was in charge.

Budget and treasury head Retief Odendaal said the travel and accommodation bill was a vast improvement on when the ANC was in power. In the year under former mayor Danny Jordaan’s rule, the municipality had spent R4.6-million on travel and accommodation.

The year before that, it had spent R7.9-million and, in the 2013-14 financial year, it had spent R7.4-million.

But budget and treasury ANC whip Rory Riordan believes the coalition government is not keeping a close guard over the public purse and is allowing money to be misused.

Acting on a tip-off from within the municipality that senior managers and politicians were frequently flying out to other cities, Riordan submitted questions to the council, requesting a detailed list of all travel and accommodation since the August 3 elections.

He, along with all other councillors, received a 150-page document listing hundreds of transactions.

Riordan said he would query flights and accommodation for, among others:

  • Corporate services executive director Vuyo Zitumane, costing R11 000 each on three separate occasions;
  • Metro police chief Yolande Faro, at a cost of at least R36 000;
  • Constituency services director Dumisani Mbebe, for taxi tours at a cost of R35 000; and
  • Two months’ bed- and- breakfast accommodation for communications director Mzobanzi Jikazana at R44 250.

When the DA-led coalition government took over, they vowed to cut spending on travel and accommodation, saying they would especially clamp down on overseas trips.

But Riordan accused the new political leadership of taking councillors on trips to make the DA look good.

He was referring to a trip to Cape Town earlier this year by a member of each of the smaller political parties for a multiparty study of the City of Cape Town council.

Riordan complained the councillors had been flown and accommodated “on a DA party political exercise”. The trip cost about R4 000 for each of the seven councillors.

“The onus and control of the travel spending is on the mayor [Athol Trollip], his team and senior officials, and they are the same people who are benefiting from this travel,” Riordan said.

But Odendaal hit back, saying that while he understood it was the job of the opposition to hold those in government accountable, he was surprised by Riordan’s question submitted to council.

“It is surprising that councillor Riordan is questioning the amount of money spent when it was he [while budget and treasury political head] who budgeted R9.5-million for travel for the 2016-17 financial year,” Odendaal said.

“We have only spent R4.2-million. If he is so concerned, he should have considered cutting back the amount for travel back then.

“The Cape Town trip was requested by the speaker and was definitely not for party political purposes. “There were specific objectives, one of which was the formation of a rules and ethics committee.

Since that trip, our own rules and ethics committee has been established.”

Odendaal said as the councillor responsible for the municipal purse, he had taken a zero-tolerance stance on wastage.

“Even when Athol [Trollip] travels to Cape Town for meetings about the coalition government, those trips are paid for by the DA.” He said travel could not be avoided and was often required to ensure good governance and best practice.

He said one example was fact-finding missions undertaken by infrastructure and engineering head Annette Lovemore on how to eradicate the bucket system in the metro.

City manager Johann Mettler said all travel that had taken place during the current financial year had been budgeted for, substantiated, approved and signed off by him.

He said expenses relating to Zitumane’s accommodation were approved by the previous mayoral committee in 2015.

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