Cape Town - Road accidents in which State vehicles are severely damaged continue to be a major cost factor to the government.
Members of the SAPS VIP Protection Unit, for instance, have been involved in 51 motor vehicle accidents that cost the taxpayer more than R650 000 over the past four years.
And R1.1 million in damages was incurred to hired vehicles by the Social Development Department.
This was revealed by Police Minister Bheki Cele and Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu when they were responding in writing to parliamentary questions from Freedom Front Plus MP Wouter Wessels and DA MP Gizella Opperman respectively.
Wessels enquired about the number of motor vehicle accidents that the members of the VIP protection unit were involved in during the course of their duties and involving official vehicles during the financial year from 2018-19 to date.
He also asked for the details of each accident, including the financial extent of the damage to all the vehicles involved, the number of injuries and lives lost, as well as the cause of the accident and location of the accident.
He also enquired if the VIP was present in the vehicle at the time of the accident, as well as the name of the VIP whose vehicle was involved.
In his written response, Cele said: “A total of 51 official vehicles of the SAPS VIP protection Unit were involved in accidents from 2018-19 to November 30, 2021.”
Cele also said the total financial extent of damages to all the vehicles involved was R651 263.22.
He said there were only two injuries and no lives were lost.
“No VIPs were present in the vehicles at the time of the accidents,” he said.
Cele’s responses showed the VIP Protection unit’s vehicles were involved in accidents in all nine the provinces.
He said a total of 17 accidents happened in Gauteng alone, with at least eight in Pretoria and nine in Joburg.
There were also nine accidents involving the unit’s official vehicles in the Eastern Cape.
Free State, Western Cape and North West had five accidents each, while Limpopo had four accidents and Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal had two each.
The revelation about VIP vehicles damaged in accidents comes against the backdrop of Zulu revealing that her department incurred R1.132 million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure from car damages.
Zulu said 51 cases were recorded as car damages.
She revealed this when she was responding to DA MP Opperman, who inquired about the disciplinary action instituted against officials responsible for R1.9m in car damages and R1m in hotel no-shows.
The minister said the department’s loss control committee recommended that 35 cases involving R674 437.04 be recovered from the officials and the travel agent. “The cases have been referred to the finance to commence with the recovery process.
“Twelve cases (R170 624.55) were written off on the basis that the officials were not negligent; and four cases (R286 298.47) were referred to labour relations for further investigation. If the officials are found to be liable for the expenditure, it will be recovered and disciplinary processes will commence,” she said.
Zulu also said in terms of R1m in hotel no-shows, only R21 638.96 had been recorded in the annual report as “hotel no-shows” and not R1m as indicated.
She said 14 cases were recorded during the 2020/21 financial year for “hotel no-show”.
“Eight cases have already been recommended to be recovered from the officials and the travel agent to the amount of R11 714,52 and these cases have already been referred to commence with the recovery process.”
However, Zulu said one case involving R1 200 in costs was written off and the official was not liable due to travel restrictions imposed and the late cancellation of an event as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
“The remaining five cases (R8 724.44) have been investigated and will be finalised at the next loss control committee meeting,” Zulu added.