South Africa: Cutting Costs in the Public Service

Government has amended the Ministerial Handbook in an effort to curb costs in the public service.

"As the sixth administration, we are confronted by a number of challenges arising from our shrinking fiscus. Ever since we assumed office, we have been looking at ways in which we can improve governance from fiscal discipline to ensure that ethical conduct becomes an apex priority and a characteristic of this administration," Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu said.

The Minister was in Pretoria on Monday, addressing members of the media on the Guide for Members of the Executive (the Ministerial Handbook) and the filling of vacant positions in the public service.

"As the executive, we believe that we must act with unity and resolve in addressing the fiscal problems facing South Africa. We have taken the position of a freeze in our salaries and have also significantly reduced the benefits to the executive in terms of personnel in executive offices, travel, accommodation and security benefits, among others," the Minister said.

He said his department will engage the Minister of Finance and other relevant Ministers, national as well as provincial legislatures and the judiciary to extend similar restrictions to their members and employees.

"On the procurement of official vehicles, the cost of the vehicles is limited to R700 000 inclusive of VAT, maintenance plans and security extras," Mchunu said.

He said members of the executive and their spouses travelling by air transport must travel in economy class for all official domestic travel as well as for international travel where 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," the Minister said.

Staff in support of a member's office, excluding household aides, has been reduced. Ministers' support has been reduced from 13 to seven, Deputy Ministers' from nine to five, Premiers' from 12 to seven and MECs' from 12 to five.

"In respect of water and electricity, the State's contribution will be limited to R5000 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. Members shall be responsible for all the costs related to domestic workers in the personal employ of the member," the Minister said.

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. The continued benefits for members upon relinquishing office is reduced to one calendar month," he said.

A member is permitted to occupy one state-owned residence free of charge and where a member occupies a second state-owned residence, the member is required to pay rental and is personally responsible for the related tax implications.

"It is envisaged that similar changes will 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," the Minister said.

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