Eight months after a story was published by the City Press, Parliament has expressed "great concern" calling the article "sensational". The publication published a follow-up on Sunday on alleged wasteful expenditure by the Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana bringing the issue to light once again. This, however, was parliament's first official response to the matter.
Parliament has noted with great concern a sensational #CityPressarticle on the Secretary to Parliament— Parliament of RSA (@ParliamentofRSA) December 18, 2016
In the initial article, the Sunday paper pointed to wasteful expenditure on a trip to the UK where Mgidlana and four of his staff members spent close to R1 million on a "benchmarking' exercise. They allegedly lived large, staying in five-star hotels and travelling business class on South African Airways (SAA) and British Airways flights.
On Sunday, after the follow-up was published, the official Twitter account of Parliament tried to justify the exorbitant amounts blaming the pound to rand exchange rate.
The report ignores facts and selectively portrays costs of the official trips to international partners of Parliament as very high, .......— Parliament of RSA (@ParliamentofRSA) December 18, 2016
Negating for example the applicable Rand-Pound exchange rate that any S African gets subjected to when visiting London or other EU countries— Parliament of RSA (@ParliamentofRSA) December 18, 2016
For Exampe a basic hotel accommodation service which costs R1300 for bed-breakfast in South Africa could cost about R23000 per day in London— Parliament of RSA (@ParliamentofRSA) December 18, 2016
But the article said Mgidlana spent R14,050 per night. Of course on social media, making sweeping statements like this will never fly. People immediately looked up costs of accommodation in London saying R23,000 per day was not normal.
Twitter users called parliament's claims a lie.
Some said it blatantly:
@ParliamentofRSA you are not even ashamed about lying to us!?!— Pettyricia (@_Choccie) December 18, 2016
The parliamentary account then tried to explain the use of business class and chauffeurs saying it was in line with transport policy. According to City Press, on his latest spending spree, Mgidlana used R44,320 on chauffeurs on a stay in Budapest, Hungary. In London, he and a team of four used chauffeur-driven vehicles at a cost to Parliament of R65,118.
The policies are clear regarding transport and accommodation services the STP, as the accounting officer of Parliament, is entitled to— Parliament of RSA (@ParliamentofRSA) December 18, 2016
Regarding the provision of chauffeur services in the country, this was done in line with the applicable policies and regulations— Parliament of RSA (@ParliamentofRSA) December 18, 2016
Then came the subtweet to the National Health Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu).
This labour relation approach would withstand the negative tone carried in one of the union leaders' rather irresponsible utterances— Parliament of RSA (@ParliamentofRSA) December 18, 2016
In the April article, Nehawu's Disang Mocumi was not happy with the details of the exorbitant spending. According to Mocumi, Nehawu was supposed to be a part of the "benchmarking" process. Mocumi also said this was probably why workers matters were not being attended to. In the latest article, Sthembiso Tembe, chairperson of the Nehawu branch in Parliament was also unimpressed. Tembe said it was likely this was just the "tip of the iceberg" and complained that this year parliamentary workers had not been paid bonuses.
Nehawu was not the only group to respond negatively to the allegations made. At the time, United Democratic Movement (UDM) chief whip, Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, and the Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen also expressed concern regarding the trips and spending.
Parliament subtweeted them too.
Issues other leaders are commenting on are literally being revived from the grave-site as they were raised and dealt with in the JSCP— Parliament of RSA (@ParliamentofRSA) December 18, 2016
It said the article and statements in it were made in an effort to derail efforts by parliament to improve on productivity. This, however, would not happen and parliament is committed to delivering better services to South Africans and mitigating against a culture of entitlement to bonuses, it said.
We will always reiterate that an institution that achieves 46% of its performance targets has no basis to grant bonuses willy nilly— Parliament of RSA (@ParliamentofRSA) December 18, 2016
The account dropped the mic with a link to the full statement, tagging City Press. Twice.
Considering the content of the statement, and the fact that Parliament appears to be defending the expenditure anyway, we're wondering why this response took eight months.