Pretoria - Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has described media reports about his "lavish hotel stays" as malicious lies.
"Media reports on this matter are incorrect, misleading and sensational, and based on interpretation by the DA of the information provided in a parliamentary response. While certain media have since corrected the facts on this issue, Independent Newspapers continue to repeat misinformation," said the minister in a statement.
Certain media reports claimed that the minister had stayed for 25 nights at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Johannesburg at a cost of R190 333 and paid R69 984 for a chauffeur-driven car. It also said that the minister stayed at the Hyatt in Canada for 11 days attending a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The reports further said that the minister had spent almost an entire year in hotels for the period April 2009 to July 2011. The minister had apparently spent 56 nights in local accommodation at a cost of R1.4 million and 102 nights in international accommodation at a cost of R592 768 during more than a two-year period.
"As Government and the Department of Transport, we take our responsibility locally, on the continent and internationally very seriously. All public funds utilised for international and domestic accommodation are in accordance with prescribed rules.
"We, therefore, welcome the investigation by the Public Protector into this matter, and the opportunity to explain these false allegations so as to set the public record straight," he said.
Ndebele added that he respected the process of the Public Protector investigation and would do whatever necessary to cooperate with it.
"We also reserve the right to pursue legal action against the parties responsible for the defamatory and false allegations being published, including the newspapers concerned," the minister said.
International hotel accommodation accounts for expenditure emanating from officials' visits abroad, including Presidential delegations, mandatory meetings of various international bodies such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Maritime Organisation (IMO), World Roads Congress, SADC Ministers of Transport, African Union, Global Road Safety Council, International Committee of Ministers of Energy and Transport and United Nations Road Safety Council.
International visits also comprise the signing of bilateral agreements in air services, infrastructure development, capacity development and training as well as other international matters of mutual interest and cooperation.
Other international visits were in response to invitations from counterparts in various countries. Costs for international travel vary according to the fluctuation of exchange rates.