DA puts ‘gravy plane’ free flights for former ministers and spouses on agenda

Expenditure on flight for ministers, deputies and their spouses, dating back to 2014, amounts to more than R45m. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/kasto

The DA wants the issue of free flights for retired ministers, deputies and their spouses to the tune of R10m a year to be urgently placed on the agenda of the body that oversees the spending of parliament’s budget.

This comes after the Sunday Times reported how parliament was spending more than R9.5m of taxpayers’ money on free business class flights for retired ministers, deputy ministers and their spouses — despite the benefit being scrapped in November 2019, when the ministerial handbook was revised.

The Sunday Times obtained the information, which had been kept confidential, following an application by DA MP Leon Schreiber in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

The expenditure on flights, amounting to just over R45m when dated back to 2014, was described as a slap in the face of the poor at a time when the country’s tax revenue base was shrinking and millions of people joined the ranks of the unemployed.

Schreiber on Wednesday said he had written to Peace Mabe, ANC MP and chairperson of the joint standing committee on the financial management of parliament (JSCFMP), requesting the issue form part of the agenda of their next meeting.

Schreiber also wrote to the office of the auditor-general, asking it to investigate parliament for possible irregular spending on the “gravy plane” for around 200 retired ministers and their spouses.

The DA MP said Baby Tyawa, acting secretary to parliament, needed to be held accountable on what steps the national legislature was introducing to curb the controversial spending.

The acting secretary to parliament, Ms Baby Tyawa, who is the accounting officer according to the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures (FMPPL) Act, must be held to account and should outline the steps she will be taking to end this continued wasteful spend on flights for former members of the executive, who are no longer public servants and who can pay for their own travel, like the rest of SA.

“If it is found Tyawa violated her fiduciary duties by paying for luxury flights for members of the ANC, NP and FF+, she must be held personally liable.

“Section 7(a) of the FMPPL Act enjoins parliament’s accounting officer to ensure  ‘parliament’s resources are used effectively, efficiently, economically and transparently’.

“At a time when our country features an unemployment rate of more than 43% and with more than 30 million people trapped in poverty by the very same people who continue to fly around in luxury at taxpayer expense, using parliament’s budget to buy business class tickets for former ministers and their families is neither an economic nor efficient use of the institution’s resources.

“Parliament has a constitutional obligation to lead by example in the management of public finances entrusted to it because of the position it occupies as a national oversight body. In this instance, however, it has been found wanting and may have violated the act which governs how it spends public resources.

“The JSCFMP is faced with a clear choice of whether to live up to its obligation to hold parliament to account or allow the culture of impunity to fester unchecked. The FMPPL Act demands the committee retains parliamentary oversight of parliament’s budgeting and expenditure, as provided for in section 4 of the act.

“Not only are these luxury flights for the ANC, NP, FF+ and Cope an immoral and corrupt waste of money at a time when more South Africans than ever have been dumped into poverty by the policies of the very people who continue to live in luxury, the DA also believes the granting of these benefits is illegal and must be ended immediately.

“We also believe any money spent irregularly must be recovered from the implicated parties.

“The DA will not rest until we free the state from the clutches of a parasitic political elite. The state must stop serving politicians and start serving the people.”

BY Thabo Mokone