Parliament wants to do away with former ministers' benefits, says Thandi Modise
Parliament says it cannot continue to fund some of the benefits by former members of the executive — including medical aid contributions enjoyed by former members of provincial legislatures.
“Clearly, there are things we cannot continue doing. We are engaging former members of the executive on their continued benefits,” said National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise on Tuesday. “The reason is that the budget for former ministers comes from the budget of parliament and we cannot continue to do so.”
Modise was presenting parliament's budget vote to the National Assembly.
A reduced budget meant the legislature's spending patterns had to be reviewed and its activities curbed, said Modise.
Parliament has been allocated R2,615,858,000 (about R2.6bn) for the 2021/22 financial year. Its baseline was adjusted downwards for the next three years with budget reductions for 2021/2022 at R256m; R338m for 2022/2023 and R296m for 2023/2024.
“Clearly, we need to give our spending patterns [a relook]. Is the structure enabling us to work efficiently? Can we curb the size of internal activities or our external ones, what is essential and what can we prioritise?” she said.
Modise said they were also engaging provincial legislatures on the contribution of their former members to the Parmed medical scheme.
“In case members do not know, a member of the legislature who has not set foot in this house, when they retire and continue with Parmed, this house carries the bill," she said. “What we want to do is not to say we cannot continue, it is to simply ask the legislatures to take their burden over and allow us to continue with our own.”
The Sunday Times reported last November that former ministers and their spouses, including apartheid-era politicians, are flying around the country at a cost of millions of rand to the taxpayer. Between 2014 and 2020, the taxpayer had forked out R45.3m on business class travel for former ministers, deputies, premiers and their spouses.
“This includes apartheid-era ministers and those who left the executive in disgrace after enabling state capture,” the paper reported at the time.
While the ministerial handbook was revised to exclude this benefit in 2019, the change does not have retrospective effect and former members of the executive still enjoy the benefits they had before the new rules were introduced. At the time, parliament said it was drafting an amended policy for all former MPs, including former members of the executive.
Parliament provided the list of 200 former ministers, deputies and their spouses who had clocked travel claims amounting to just under R20m between April 2018 and March 2020 while responding to a Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) application from the DA.
DA MP Leon Schreiber, who submitted the Paia application, said at the time the spending on free flights for retired ministers and their spouses was an insult to the poor.