Police minister Bheki Cele is in the spotlight this week — not for crime-fighting efforts but for a controversial Rugby World Cup trip in France in which SAPS spent nearly half a million rand for his executive assistant to attend with him.
The minister, in a question-and-answer in parliament, said SAPS spent R446,339.43 for his executive assistant to attend the RWC final.
Cele’s trip expenses were paid for by a private company, but SAPS also spent a further R33,256 for his stay in France.
Civil rights group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s (Outa) believes the minister should be called to parliament to account for the money spent by the department on the trip.
Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage, speaking to TimesLIVE, described the spending as “unnecessary”.
“We have a government that is broke but finds it fit to spend money in this manner. It is an unnecessary expenditure and it sends a clear message from the minister and the department that they do not respect the taxpayers’ money,” he said.
Duvenage said though the minister and his assistant had the right to attend lavish events, the trip should not have been paid for by the SAPS.
“Half a million [rand] makes a difference in a department where police officers are struggling with resources. It could buy about two new vehicles that could have been put to good use and could have saved a life,” he said.
“The department has challenges with lack of resources and the minister speaks of those but then behaves like this. He [Cele] is sending a message to his own employees and the public that he does not really care about the challenges.”
Duvenage said Cele should appear before parliament and the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) to account for spending on the trip and clarify whether it was justified.
“If there were no due processes followed, then there must be disciplinary action taken. This is a serious offence in the code and conduct. I believe even though it’s only half a million rand, it is enough to set an example.”
Previously speaking to TimesLIVE about SAPS’ capacity to deal with rising crime levels, policing expert Dr Johan Burger lamented that understaffing, lack of resources and corruption were the department’s biggest hurdles.
“The criminal justice system is under tremendous pressure because of the rise in crime and this is added to by the high rise in corruption exposed by the Zondo commission.
“With what remains of the capacity, is it sufficient to deal with the rise in crime, including mass shootings? The criminal justice system needs to rebuild its capacity, get rid of internal corruption, strengthen specialised police units and give them resources, because there are units that do a good job,” he said.
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