17 February 2013

South Africa: AG Must Investigate Lulu Xingwana's R2.1 Million Expenditure On Furniture

press release

Reports today reveal that Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, spent R2.1 million redecorating her department's head office with designer furniture. Nearly half of that amount was spent on her own office.

The DA will be calling for the Auditor-General to investigate this latest report of extravagant and wasteful expenditure by the Department under Minister Xingwana's watch.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the protection of women and children is very low on the Minister's list of priorities. Overseas trips, designer furniture and the services of private lawyers to assist in axing members of her staff all seem to be higher on the Minister's agenda than actually fulfilling the mandate of her department.

Examples of her skewed priorities include:

Allocating R25 million of her Department's 2012/2013 budget to travel and subsistence, while just R13.5 million went to its "Children's Rights and Responsibilities" programme, and R15.4 million to its "Rights of People with Disabilities" programme;

66% under-spending in the "Rights of People with Disabilities" programme;

overspending of 112% on employees' salaries; while the 2012/2013 budget for salaries already represented more than a third of the department's budget; and

contracting the services of a private labour law firm instead of the State Attorney, whose office she apparently does not trust, to assist her in terminating the employment of staff members.

Minister Xingwana has yet to provide any evidence of measurable outcomes that provide protection and assistance to vulnerable women, children and people with disabilities. Her department has done very little besides throw lavish parties, fly to expensive conferences and seminars all around the world, and redecorate its offices.

In October last year, the Public Protector advised me that the DA's request for an investigation into the Department's failure to deliver on its mandate was a matter for the Auditor-General, Mr Terence Nombembe. We duly requested Mr Nombembe to investigate what clearly constitutes skewed spending priorities and financial mismanagement, and I will be asking him to add these recent reports of wasteful expenditure to the scope of his investigation.

Minister Xingwana's lack of action in dealing with the growing tide of violence against women, and her lacklustre efforts at implementing programmes to promote the rights of children and people with disabilities are a slap in the face of those who depend on her department for support.

It is time she got her priorities right, and put the interests of vulnerable South Africans above her own extravagant taste in furniture and overseas trips.

Helen Lamoela, Shadow Minister of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities

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