DA complains to Gordhan over World Cup ticket purchases

Tim Harris says 5 departments have admitted to spending R10,9m

DA writes to Gordhan over government World Cup ticket purchases

I have today written to the Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, asking to know what action is going to be taken against those government departments which have defied his directive against using their budgets to purchase World Cup tickets for department staff members. I have also requested that the Minister explains what measures will be put in place to prevent such spending from other departments for the duration of the tournament.

Replies to Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary questions have revealed that to date, the departments of Science and Technology, Trade and Industry, Tourism, Public Service and Administration and Communications have spent a total of R10,9 million on tickets.

In doing so, as Minister Gordhan correctly pointed in his reply to my letter last week, the departments have breached the Public Finance Management Act as well as the Code of Conduct for Public Servants. They have also demonstrated disregard for the authority of the Minister of the Finance, and the interests of ordinary South Africans, many of whom are not able to afford tickets, or have had their requests for tickets turned down. The unauthorised expenditure by these departments cannot go unchallenged and Minister Gordhan needs to explain precisely what action he will be taking.

A copy of my letter follows below.

15 June 2010

Tim Harris MP
Room 340
Marks Building

Dear Minister Gordhan

Re: Wasteful expenditure by national departments on World Cup tickets

Thank you for your letter dated 7 June 2010. I am relieved to hear that the provisions of the circulars sent to municipalities and provincial departments - on the legal provisions pertaining to expenditures on 2010 FIFA World Cup tickets and T-shirts - apply, in principle, to national departments.

My party has asked a series of parliamentary questions to each of the 32 national departments and the 15 replies received so far indicate that the problem of irregular expenditure on 2010 FIFA World Cup tickets by national departments is on a larger scale than previously thought.

This directly contradicts the message and spirit of the above-mentioned circulars and I am concerned that your warning against this expenditure has gone unheeded by many of your colleagues in the national cabinet.

The most blatant examples of this expenditure are from the Department of Communications that spent R 5,2 million on 2786 tickets, and the Department of Trade and Industry that spent R4,7 million on 3054 tickets. An additional R12 million was spent by the Industrial Development Corporation on 2734 tickets.

This brings the total public funds wastefully spent on World Cup tickets for department officials and ‘stakeholders' to just short of R23 million.

While the corporate objectives of some departments may require a few tickets to be bought for clients - within the budgets and business plans of the department - it is clear that the scale of expenditures listed above cannot be justified in this way. These ticket purchases patently fall far outside the parameters established in your own memorandum.

Also at issue are the large number of tickets bought and the fact that many appear to have been poorly or arbitrarily allocated. Asked how tickets were distributed in his department, Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi replied that they were simply given to ‘employees who expressed an interest in attending an event'.

The World Cup provides opportunity for the world to celebrate a unique African achievement but I am concerned that this behaviour by certain departments represents a cynical manipulation of this event for personal gain at state expense.

In your original reply to me you explained that the above-mentioned circulars were forwarded to the Auditor-General so that they could be taken into consideration in his forthcoming audits but my concern is that - since we are in the first week of a four week tournament - additional costs may be incurred by departments if there is not direct intervention to prevent it.

In light of the cost-saving austerity drive undertaken by Government and lead by National Treasury, I would greatly appreciate it you could inform me as to (i) what steps you will be taking to ensure that your colleagues in the national Cabinet who have engaged in wasteful and potentially irregular spending will be held to account and (ii) what measures you will be putting in place to prevent such spending from occurring in the coming weeks.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Harris, MP

Statement issued by Tim Harris, MP, Democratic Alliance member of the select committee on finance, June 15 2010

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