State 'wastes' R34m on flights
Millions of taxpayers' money has been wasted on empty "ferry flights" used to transport government officials.
Besieged by under-funding, the apparent waste of resources was exposed by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in response to parliamentary questions yesterday.
Mapisa-Nqakula revealed that R34-million has been spent between 2009 and 2012 to ferry ministers and deputy ministers around the country.
Many of these flights - by the South African Air Force's VIP squadron, the reserve squadron and chartered aircraft - were empty as planes had to be flown from one province to another in order to pick up their passengers.
DA MP David Maynier said since 2009, 700 such ferry flights took place. The latest revelations comes months after a multibillion-rand tender for a new presidential aircraft fleet was canned by Mapisa-Nqakula last month.
The defence force was also forced to admit that it had spent millions on hiring aircraft to "shadow" President Jacob Zuma's jet while he was on official business.
The majority of flights are believed to have taken off from Pretoria's Waterkloof air force base to Ysterplaat air force base in Cape Town to collect ministers.
The R34-million spent on "ferry flights" includes more than R7.5-million, which was splashed on 249 flights with luxury Gulfstream business jets. All these flights had no passengers on board.
"The VIP squadron spent R13.5-million while the reserve force squadrons used up R11.4-million.
"The air force spent another R9.5-million on chartering flights," said Maynier.
Mapisa-Nqakula's response also revealed that the presidential jet, Inkwazi, was used for 58 ferry flights which cost R4.9-million, while R4.6-million was spent on two chartered Airbus flights.
The chartered Airbus is suspected to have been used to shadow Zuma.
Maynier said the ministerial handbook was clear on the use of military aircraft for ferrying VIPs.
"Only under exceptional circumstances may such flights be conducted, which is clearly not happening," he said.
"The exceptional circumstances must [either] be time constraints in reaching destinations by vehicle or commercial flights [where] the safety of passengers demands such flights, [or when] commercial airlines are not cost-effective, and for health reasons."
Maynier said the circumstances for such flights was also being abused. He said he believed the biggest offender was Sisulu.
"Sisulu refused to provide details on the flights . because she was covering up millions of rands wasted on flying ministers around."
Military analyst Helmoed Heitman said the figures equalled R8-million a year on such flights.
"There is a lot more to this than meets the eye," he said.