New travel benefits for members of parliament published.
By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Parliament has published its updated travel benefits policy for members of parliament in South Africa.
The policy, which was tabled on Monday (28 March), applies to former MPs who served in parliament for a continuous period of five years or longer, or one complete term in the event that a complete term is less than five years. These MPs are entitled to 12 single air tickets per annum for a period of five years after exit, provided:
- The tickets are for the personal use of the former member and their registered spouse/partner;
- The tickets are allocated annually per financial year;
- Any tickets not used in the financial year applicable are forfeited;
- Tickets are issued for economy class and domestic travel only;
- The surviving spouse or life partner of a former member who dies within the benefit period, shall be entitled only to six single air tickets per annum to the end date of the original benefit.
The travel spending of politicians has previously been flagged as an ongoing strain on taxpayers, with former MPs racking up millions of rands for themselves and their spouses.
While the government has since updated its ministerial handbook to revise these benefits, these do not apply retroactively.
Updated ministerial handbook
In July 2019, the government published a revised guide for members of the executive, effectively replacing the controversial ministerial handbook introduced in 2007.
The updated guide covers everything from relocation expenses to cars, with most of the new perks appearing to be largely the same or slightly reined in from the previous ministerial handbook.
This guide also describes the new powers given to finance minister Tito Mboweni to directly curb spending on transport and other luxuries.
However, ministers can also expect some increased benefits such as more staff members and an increased limit on home security.
- The South African Police Service (SAPS) shall provide the member with VIP Drivers and protectors for official purposes and in the interest of security;
- National Members shall be provided with one vehicle for official use in each seat of office. Provincial Members shall be provided with one vehicle for official use;
- The cost of this vehicle – including any security upgrades – will be determined by the minister of finance;
- In the event that an official vehicle is not procured for a member, they may be reimbursed for using their own private vehicle;
- Departments may only replace a motor vehicle purchased for a member if the vehicle has reached 120,000 km or 5 years, or if the car experiences serious mechanical problems and is in a poor condition;
- Spouses and other dependent family members may be transported in the member’s official vehicle.
- Members and their spouses (or an adult family member accompanying the member in an official capacity) are entitled to travel for official purposes at the expense of the relevant department;
- This trip must be business class travel using the cheapest of three (3) quotations for the most cost-effective and convenient route;
- Members and their spouses may use VIP facilities at the relevant airports on domestic travel at the cost of the relevant department;
- No daily subsistence and travel allowance is payable to a member, their spouse, or minor children for domestic travel;
- National members and their spouses are also jointly entitled to 30 (thirty) single domestic business class flight tickets per annum;
- Ministers and deputy ministers may only travel on official visits abroad if these are essential, in the national interest and with due regard to the availability of funds;
- Members may occupy a state-owned residence in the seat of office free of charge;
- The state will contribute up to R250,000 in security upgrades, with this amount to be revised annually;
- The ministry of departmental works will be responsible for paying for water and lights as well as employing a domestic worker for these homes;
- Rentals for phones (as well as the costs of official calls), the installation and maintenance of fax, internet/WiFi and DSTV facilities will be paid for by the department.