Government departments spend big on luxury vehicles

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The top three luxury car brands preferred by South African ministers.
The top three luxury car brands preferred by South African ministers.

The telecoms and postal services ministry splurged over R2 million on two luxury vehicles for its ministers during the 2018/2019 financial year.

The vehicles were purchased for former minister Siyabonga Cwele and minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

In a response to questions posed in Parliament by the Democratic Alliance (DA), the department revealed it had spent nearly R1.3 million to purchase a Toyota Land Cruiser for Cwele, while an Audi Q7 3.0 TDI Quattro, valued at over R1 million, was purchased for Ndabeni-Abrahams for use in Pretoria.

Prior to being named minister of the telecommunications and communications departments, Ndabeni-Abrahams served as the telecoms ministry's deputy. In the 2017/2018 financial year, the department spent R910 928 on another vehicle, the same Audi model, for the deputy minister to use in Cape Town.

Rules and guidelines

There is no illegality or crime in government departments purchasing vehicles for ministers and their deputies; however, they are often scrutinised for the amount of money they spend on vehicle purchases.

In 2017, when the then newly-appointed leadership of the communications department was purportedly looking to purchase new vehicles, they were heavily criticised by the DA's MP and shadow minister of communications, Phumzile van Damme.

Van Damme questioned the department's plans to purchase new luxury vehicles while it already had cars in its garage. She believed the purchase of new vehicles would place severe pressure on the department's finances.

Nonetheless, according to the responses to the Parliamentary questions, the department purchased two new vehicles for former deputy minister Thandi Mahambehlala.

The communications ministry purchased a 2017 model Jaguar XF 2.0d R Sport valued at R748 941 for Mahambehlala to use in Cape Town. For Pretoria, the department spent R755 888 on a Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 for the former deputy minister.

Meanwhile, government has revealed the ministerial handbook, which sets out guidelines for the purchase of official vehicles for political office-bearers, is undergoing some changes in relation to vehicle purchases, state residences and international travel.

Amending the ministerial handbook is part of government's plan to ensure ministers' and deputy ministers' perks do not result in wasteful expenditure.

Other big spenders

Responding to the Parliamentary question, minister in the Presidency for planning, monitoring and evaluation, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, revealed her department spent R838 045 on a new BMW 530i for her last year. In 2016, the department paid R971 432 for an Audi Q7 3.0 TDI for former deputy minister Buti Manamela.

The luxury car brands that are firm favourites among ministers and their deputies:

* Audi Q7 3.0 TDI Quattro
* Mercedes-Benz
* BMW 5 Series
* Toyota Land Cruiser

Between 2018 and 2019, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform spent over R4.8 million on luxury car purchases for the minister and the deputies. This included two Mercedes-Benz and two Audis.

The department purchased the two Audis in 2018 to be used by minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in Pretoria and Cape Town. The vehicles are valued at R1.2 million and R1 million, respectively.

During the 2017/2018 financial year, the Department of Public Works splashed out on a new Mercedes-Benz GLE 350D, Audi Q7 NM and Toyota Land Cruiser at a combined value of just over R3 million. They were bought for the department's former ministers, Thulas Nxesi and Nkosinathi Nhleko.

The vehicles, according to the department's reply, were purchased for official use in Pretoria and Cape Town.

In 2018, the Department of Basic Education purchased two vehicles, a BMW 5 Series Sedan and Audi Q7 3.0 TDI Quattro, for its deputy minister. The BMW cost R833 488, and the Audi was purchased at a cost of over R1 million.

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