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New comms ministers to roll in style

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The DOC intends to purchase new cars for minister Ayanda Dlodlo and deputy minister Thandi Mahambehlala.
The DOC intends to purchase new cars for minister Ayanda Dlodlo and deputy minister Thandi Mahambehlala.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called into question the intended purchase of new luxury vehicles for the newly-appointed leadership of the communications department.

Phumzile van Damme, MP and DA shadow minister of communications, reveals the department plans to buy two new vehicles for minister Ayanda Dlodlo and deputy minister Thandi Mahambehlala, despite financial constraints.

According to her, the department runs the risk of running out of money by the second quarter of the current financial year.

At a portfolio committee meeting on communications yesterday, acting DG Basani Baloyi indicated "the department is under severe economic pressure, and will likely run out of money by mid-year", Van Damme notes.

She explains: "The purchase of two new vehicles will place severe financial pressure on the department's ability to fill vacancies and deliver on its mandate. The department states the two new cars will be purchased at a minimum of R750 000 per vehicle, but as history shows, members of the executive have a penchant for splurging R1 million and above on cars.

"The DA challenges the minister and her deputy to reject these purchases, as their priorities as new ministers should be fixing a department and its entities currently in severe crisis, and ensuring that there is money to do so - not buying fancy new cars."

Van Damme points out the department should have four 2014 luxury cars ? a BMW X5, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Audi A8 Quattro and Audi Q7 ? in its garage, which she believes are more than good enough.

"The excuse that the ministerial handbook allows ministers to purchase new vehicles once mileage has been reached does not hold water."

The communications department had not responded to ITWeb's questions by the time of publication.

Big spenders

This is not the first time government departments have been scrutinised for the money they spend on vehicle purchases.

Earlier this year, a report, based on an investigation by the DA, revealed government spent more than R40 million on luxury vehicles bought from 2014 to 2017.

However, former communications minister Faith Muthambi released a statement that strongly criticised the report.

At the time, Muthambi described the purchase of vehicles "as tools of the trade". She stated there is no illegality or crime in government purchasing vehicles for ministers and their deputies.

Muthambi explained that ministers and their deputies have to travel long distances to deal with the real challenges of communities that are in the far flung rural and urban areas of Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape.

"The minister of water and sanitation must ensure that the community of Thohoyandou in Limpopo and those of Tsomo or Lusisiki in the Eastern Cape are equally served in terms of water provision...

"Same as with the ministry of water and sanitation, ministers and their deputies are not office-bound nor are based in one province. Travelling to inland provinces and to communities demands them to use these vehicles."

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