Ministerial handbook guidelines are complied with, says Minister Ntshavheni

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, has assured South Africans that Members of the Executive are compliant with the guidelines in the Ministerial handbook, which outline the benefits, tools of trade and allowances for Members of the Executive to perform their duties efficiently.

Addressing members of the media in Pretoria on Thursday, the Minister said Cabinet expressed concern over the continued misrepresentation of the Guide for Members of the Executive.

This follows complaints that have been reported in the media about the benefits received by Members of the Executive.

“The current configuration of the Executive responds to the service-delivery interventions outlined in both the State of the Nation Address and Budget Speech.

“In line with the guide, the State provides housing to members of the Executive and takes into account that Parliament is in Cape Town and the seat of the Executive is in Pretoria. The Groote Schuur Estate in Cape Town and the Bryntirion Estate in Pretoria, which were purchased prior to 1994, continue to be used to provide housing to Ministers and Deputy Ministers, only during their tenure,” Ntshavheni said.

She said the benefits Members of the National Executive receive are continually reviewed to advance good governance, particularly with regard to cost containment, cost effectiveness and efficiency.

“All Members of Parliament are entitled to support staff who assist them to account to their constituencies. Even so, in the area of support staff, the number of posts that could be created to support a Member of the Executive have been reduced. Support staff for Ministers were reduced from 13 to seven and for Members of the Executive Council (MEC) from 13 to five.

“Members of the Executive are often called to work outside of normal business hours and engage with stakeholders across the country. The package of benefits received is consistent with their skills, knowledge and experience to oversee their departments,” the Minister said.

She was addressing members of the media of the outcomes of Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.

“The Ministerial benefits and those benefits extending to parliament across all provinces and including the parliament and members of the NCOP are a result of 1910, when they formed the Union of South Africa in our exclusion and decided on three capitals.

“It should be understood that since 1994, this government and this administration has never procured any new property so the adventurism that claims that Ministers live in mansions, those mansions are inherited and like any property the value accumulates if it is maintained.

“That is what has happened. The value has accumulated through the maintenance. Ministers pay rent for the second property that they utilize at a market related [rate]. We must understand that Ministers of this government do not come exclusively from Cape Town and Pretoria. They come from different parts of the country,” Ntshavheni said.

She noted the alternatives that are being proposed, which include utilising hotels.

“[They] are more expensive, in particular in Cape Town….that is why government uses the facilities of government that are in place to accommodate,” the Minister said.

She dismissed the notion that Ministerial houses are not loadshed.

“That is a fallacy. Ministerial houses are loadshed, they undergo loadshedding. The only exemption is the Bryntirion Estate because it sits in the National Key Point, which is the Union Buildings and Mahlamba Ndlopfu.

“We are not going to sacrifice the national security of this country because of political popularism that are attempted by all opposition parties towards elections,” Ntshavheni said.

She indicated that the National Treasury in consultation with the police approve vehicles according to safety standards.

“We cannot risk people’s lives because of political adventurism and claims for political popularity. The public must understand that Ministers are at the service of government and therefore they are entitled to be protected.

“In terms of the Ministerial handbook, we need to clarify the claim that some Ministers have more staff than other Ministers. That is not true. It is only a result of the time a particular Minister was appointed.

“The Ministerial handbook is a living document that is continuously revised. At some point, the support staff was at a higher number and at some point, the support staff was reduced. It depends on when a particular Minister was appointed,” Ntshavheni said.

The support staff is linked to the term of office of a Minister, unless a particular staff resigns during the term of office of that Minister, than that vacancy cannot be filled if that post has been destablished.

“If no member of staff resign, those support staff will remain as they are linked to the term of a particular Minister so there is no adventurism by some Ministers wanting more staff. We are all compliant to the Ministerial handbook,” she said.

The President has referred the Ministerial Handbook to the Commission of Independent Remuneration of Political Office Bearers who are already dealing with the salaries of Ministers, the President and members of parliament so that in totality they can look at support and benefits that they are entitled to and advise the President accordingly.

“We are waiting for their final report to be submitted,” the Minister said. –