‘We were working, not partying’ – Justice ministry slams DA’s ‘partying on taxpayer money’ claims
'There is no such department called Ronald Lamola’s department of justice and correctional services.'
Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola at the interviews for South Africa’s next Chief Justice at Park Hotel, Sandton, on 1 February 2022. Photo: Gallo Images/Daily Maverick/Felix Dlangamandla
The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services has slammed the Democratic Alliance (DA) for the statement in which it accused “ANC cadres” of partying on taxpayers’ money.
On Sunday, the party issued a statement accusing 18 ANC ministers, deputy ministers and their departments of spending over R1.4 billion on catering, entertainment and accommodation since President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government took office on 19 May 2019.
“While millions of South Africans go to bed hungry, ANC cadres kept on partying on taxpayer money all throughout lockdown,” claimed the party.
One of the biggest spenders, according to the party, was “Ronald Lamola’s department of justice and correctional services”.
The DA claimed this department spend R293 million on catering, entertainment and accommodation.
“This department – which has overseen the collapse of the National Prosecuting Authority and was exposed as the posterchild for Bosasa corruption by the State Capture Commission – accounts for nearly a quarter of all taxpayer money wasted on luxuries over the past three years.
“The department spent an eye-watering R285 million on accommodation during a period when most South Africans were locked down and not allowed to travel,” said the DA.
The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services has hit back at the DA, saying there is no such department called “Ronald Lamola’s department of justice and correctional services”.
“The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJCD) and the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) are two completely separate departments, each with their own budget vote and own accounting officer.
“The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services accounts to Parliament for the budgets and expenditure of the DOJCD, the DCS and the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ). One would have expected the DA to know this,” said Ministry spokesperson Chrispin Phiri.
He further slammed the DA for referring to civil servants as “ANC cadres”, and not explaining the costs in detail.
“In the case of the DOJCD, the expenditure incurred also covers magistrates’ costs – is the DA referring to independent judicial officers as cadres?
“Entertainment expenditure is expenditure incurred by members of the Senior Management Service (SMS) as well as Ministers, Deputy Ministers and their office bearers in performance of their duties.
“Accommodation expenditure relates to reasonable actual accommodation costs where an employee must take an official journey. In other words, all these types of expenditure relate to official duties in line with departmental activities and objectives,” explained Phiri.
He said the DOJCD went to “great lengths” to ensure that the courts remained open during the Covid lockdown.
“How does the DA think this would have been possible without incurring costs? To portray this as ‘partying’ is politically opportunistic. By the same token, had the DOJCD underspent on its budget, it would surely be accused by the DA of not performing its functions.”
Minister Ronald Lamola said while attempts to conduct parliamentary oversight over the executive was welcome, information should not be used to “manipulate” public opinion.
“Such information must be used to enlighten citizens, so that information must be correct and put into context,” said Lamola.
“This is why we have the Office of the Auditor-General and bodies such as the Select Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) who scrutinise departmental expenditure. Where such expenditure cannot be explained or is found to be fruitless and wasteful, the necessary consequence management and disciplinary processes are followed.”