Cost-cutting 'sacrifices' announced for government's bigwigs

09 December 2019 - 17:20 By Andisiwe Makinana
Public service and administration minister Senzo Mchunu announced there would no longer be security upgrades in minister's private homes, and other cuts to the perks they have enjoyed. File picture.
Public service and administration minister Senzo Mchunu announced there would no longer be security upgrades in minister's private homes, and other cuts to the perks they have enjoyed. File picture.
Image: Jackie Clausen

There will be no more security upgrades in ministers’ private homes, no more business class flights and a reduction in the number of ministerial aides.

The state will also curb litigation and defend only winnable cases.

These are some of the wide range of cuts prescribed in the new ministerial handbook and announced by public service and administration minister Senzo Mchunu on Monday.

Among the cost-cutting changes were that security upgrades for private residence would no longer be paid for by the state.

“Upgrades in your residence for security reasons have always been pegged at R100,000 when you get appointed as minister or MEC. It was upped a few years ago to R250,000, and now we are at zero. For any new appointee, there is no longer any money allocated for that purpose, in the main, for private residences,” said Mchunu.

Mchunu said the "sacrifices" by members of the executive were in line with the need to be circumspect on the country's fiscal constraints and to ensure fiscal prudence.

Cuts to the benefits enjoyed by members of the executive include:

  • Pegging the cost of official vehicles to R700,000, inclusive of VAT, maintenance plans and security extras;
  • Members and their spouses travelling by air transport must travel in economy class for all official domestic travel and for international travel when the travel time is less than two hours;
  • The state shall not bear any costs in respect of security upgrades done at the member’s private residence;
  • The rental for cellular telephones, as well as the cost of official calls, is subject to an annual limitation of R60,000; and
  • Staff in support of a member’s office, excluding household aides, has been reduced to seven from 13 for a minister, five from nine for a deputy minister, seven from 12 for a premier and five from 12 for an MEC.

Mchunu said in respect of water and electricity, the state’s contribution will be limited to R5,000 per month per state-owned residence. No contribution will be made in respect of private residences.

No cleaning materials, equipment and chemicals will be provided to residences and members of the executive will be responsible for all the costs related to domestic workers in their personal employ.

Travel by a spouse for official domestic trips is now limited to six domestic economy class travel trips per financial year if the member is required to attend official duties accompanied by a spouse or adult family member. Additional flight tickets for member’s private use is reduced from 30 to 20 single economy class tickets for use by the member or the member’s spouse.

Government departments will also no longer be responsible for the cost of gratuities and reading material for both the member and the spouse. The continued benefits for members upon relinquishing office is reduced to one calendar month, and a member is permitted to occupy one state-owned residence free of charge. Where a member occupies a second state-owned residence, then the member will be required to pay a rental and is personally responsible for the related tax implication.

Mchunu said it was envisaged that similar changes would take place to cut these costs in the public service and the public sector in general, including mayors, executive committees, directors general and state-owned entities.

While government seeks to restrict benefits to members of the executive, it is mum on how it will deal with the burgeoning public sector wage bill.

Mchunu revealed there were just more than 1.2-million public servants permanently employed by the state at provincial and national government levels in the 2018/19 financial year, up from just over 1.1-million public servants in the 2006/07 financial year. These exclude contracted workers, those who work for state-owned enterprises and those who work in the local government sphere.

While the remuneration of public servants stood at just over R200bn in 2006/07, it has climbed up to more than R500bn in 2018/19, he revealed.

“We have concluded the problem we have is not necessarily on head count, but the problem is on remuneration. We agree this is a challenge," he said.

Mchunu said he was not "at liberty" to go into details in terms of discussions between government and labour over the "sensitive issue".

Finance minister Tito Mboweni has previously labelled the public sector wage bill “a mess”, saying it was one of the risks to the fiscus.

Mchunu said the government was also looking at the shape of public service – whether there were too many senior public servants. 

“Those are the aspects we are looking at and, of course, engaging with all relevant parties. We are at the same time making an effort to ask to be listened to and be believed that we know what we are talking about, so we don't cause unnecessary panic and uncertainty regarding the number of public servants,” he said.