Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel revealed that officials in his department spent a whopping R7.8 million on business class flights and sabbatical leave for 16 employees.
Patel announced this disclosure in response to a parliamentary question.
Mat Cuthbert, the DA’s deputy shadow minister of trade, industry and economic development, said in a statement on Tuesday that the minister’s answer comes about four months after questions were submitted.
According to Cuthbert, this is a clear violation of Rule 146 of the National Assembly’s standing rules. This rule stipulates that all questions asked by ministers to ministers must be answered within ten working days.
“This is a clear indication that the Department and Minister Patel have tried their best to withhold this information from the public,” said Cuthbert.
According to Cuthbert, 16 officials from the Department of Trade and Industry have been placed on paid sabbatical since January last year. Six of the employees were placed on paid 12 months leave, one on 10 months leave and the remaining nine employees on leave periods of two and a half to 9 months.
“This is while the leadership of the department is constantly complaining about the high levels of vacancies in their ranks,” Cuthbert said.
According to Cuthbert, it was also revealed that between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019, the department has a total of 192 business class airline tickets for international flights at a total cost of R7 869 924. A total of 42 local business class airline tickets a total cost of R395 472.
“This while the government’s public goal was to cut travel expenses because of the existing fiscal challenges facing the Treasury,” Cuthbert said.
The DA will now address follow-up questions to Patel about who the officials involved are on sabbatical leave and who is responsible for the exorbitant expenses associated with the business class flights.