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Mbeki's jet needs extra R20m

Date: 12 November 2004

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President Thabo Mbeki's jet - named the Inkwazi - is set to require nearly R20m more than the R58m budgeted for running costs by the defence department over the next three years. The aircraft falls under the defence department vote.

Although it is a small budget item within the department, rising costs of the aircraft have been noted in parliament.

Its joint budget committee this week reported that the department of defence (DoD) had expressed a concern "that the expectations contained in Finance Minister Trevor Manuel's Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) did not reflect the projected allocations to the department." Manuel presented the MTBPS late last month.

This, in layman's language, is that MPs were concerned that the department was not getting enough money to carry out its required functions.

The higher-than-expected costs of the Inkwazi, which is Zulu for fish eagle, is listed under a report on the MTBPS released by the budget committee which is responsible for oversight on the budgeting process. It is chaired by African National Congress MP Nhlanhla Nene.

The jet is mentioned under an item expressing concern that the role of the DoD in Africa "has continued to grow," but was still under-funded. A larger amount of R126m was needed under that item, but under air defence it notes: "increased flying hours for the presidential business jet requires an additional R19m."

Budget under distress

The committee noted that DoD is under budget distress and viewed its declining budget allocations "as indicative of a decline in government priority."

According to a document submitted to the National Assembly defence committee, operational spending on the presidential aircraft was projected to be R11m in the current financial year, rising to R23m next year and just over R24m in 2006/07.

The jet - long a bone of contention with opposition parties - hit the headlines earlier this year when the DoD released figures to parliament showing that Mbeki took ANC officials - including national spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama - with him abroad the R600m Boeing 737 during the election period.

Figures released then indicated that the average of the 81 flights taken in the year to June was about R270 000. Total operating cost for the period was nearly R22m.

The defence vote remains virtually stagnant - when accounting for inflation - in the three-year period with the budget projected to be R22.2bn this year, rising to R24.7bn next year and to R25.3bn in 2006/07, but falling to R25.2bn in 2007/08.

The average annual growth in defence spending in this period is 4.3%, according to the MTBPS.

News24

 


 
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