Spending by five KwaZulu-Natal departments on "functions" jumped almost fourfold this year compared with 2010 as state money was poured into the ANC's local government election campaign, the African Christian Democratic Party has alleged.
The ACDP said its research had shown that the combined spending of the office of the premier, Zweli Mkhize, and the provincial departments of social development, arts culture, sports and recreation, human settlements and public works, and agriculture, environmental affairs and rural development soared from R20.7-million to R86.4-million year on year.
"Functions" included the opening of offices, sod-turning ceremonies, free lunches for supporters and events at which agricultural implements were handed over.
Government money was also spent on T-shirts, buses to transport people to rallies and loud-hailers.
The ACDP has taken a stack of documents to the public protector for investigation.
The revelations come in the wake of questions about how the ANC will source at least R100-million needed for the ANC's centenary celebration next year.
"The money was mainly used in KwaZulu-Natal's rural areas to the detriment of other parties trying to win support in the elections," said the chairperson of the ACDP and a member of the provincial legislature Jo-Ann Downs.
Ndabezinhle Sibiya, spokesperson for Mkhize, rejected the ACDP allegations as "cheap politicking".
The ACDP research indicates that, in just three of the departments surveyed, a total of R19-million was spent on functions in the January to May pre-election period.
In the same period of 2010, when there was no election, they spent R4-million. In Mkhize's department R11.8-million was spent on "functions" in that period, compared with R1.6-million last year.
"I get invited to all of these functions. They were electioneering rallies thinly disguised as departmental functions," said Downs.
Sibiya described the functions as "public outreach programmes" and said they had been initiated in 2010.
"The outreach programmes are part of a strategy we announced when we formed a caring government that would remain in touch with the people of this province in every corner, rural or urban. This is not about electioneering, but about remaining in touch with the electorate and communicating the work we are doing to improve their lives."
A breakdown of spending in Mkhize's office between January and May this year shows that R1-million was spent on transport (R60 000 in 2010); R3.7-million on catering (R700 000); R220 000 on staff accommodation (R15 000); R4.5-million on tents, stages and venues (R783 000); and R2.2-million on 'miscellaneous expenses” (R86 000).
Downs said that speakers at the events came only from the ANC and T-shirts handed out were in its party colours. "People were bused in and given free meals. A lot of funds were diverted from legitimate projects, such as feeding schemes and other poverty-alleviation projects.
"In this province less than 50% of women and children get ARVs [antiretrovirals]. So many NGOs [non-governmental organisations]come to me desperate because of delays in government funding. My contention is that these funds were spent on quasi-electioneering events.
"What's particularly disquieting is that these are figures we have for five departments. Who knows what the total figure is for the whole of KwaZulu-Natal, let alone the entire country?" Downs said.
Between January and May the KwaZulu-Natal department of human settlements and public works spent almost R283 000 on 24 events, compared with R75 000 on eight events in the same period of the previous year -- a 26.5% increase.
Over the same months this year the department of arts, culture, sport and recreation staged 54 events costing R6.7-million, compared with 30 events in 2010 costing about R3-million.
Spending by the agriculture, environmental and rural development department on functions more than tripled year on year, from R2.3-million to R7-million. It spent more than R400 000 on "handing over agricultural implements", about R555 000 on opening the Umbumbulu agricultural office and almost R473 000 on a "dip tank sod-turning ceremony".
At one event R20 520 was spent on 'loud-hailing”.
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