While policing budgets bleed, Cele’s ministry spends R8m on accommodation, entertainment, catering

  • The police ministry alone has spent more than R8 million on accommodation, entertainment and catering, while the rest of the police spent more than R3 billion on these expenses from 1 April 2019 to 17 June 2022. 
  • This comes while the police face a cash crunch amid a dwindling budget.
  • The DA believes this is another reason why Police Minister Bheki Cele has overstayed his time in office.

Police Minister Bheki Cele’s ministry has spent R8 million on accommodation, entertainment and catering between 1 April 2019 to 17 June this year, while the rest of the police force spent more than R3 billion on the same services over the same period.

The police’s overall budget has dwindled during this time.

This was revealed in Cele’s response to a written parliamentary question by DA MP Janho Engelbrecht.

Engelbrecht asked how much had been spent on accommodation, catering and entertainment for Cele, his deputy Cassel Mathale, and all other police officials since he came into office on 29 May 2019.

However, the police’s accounting doesn’t break down costs from specific dates, and the amounts since the start of the 2019/20 financial year – 1 April 2019 – are given.

Taxpayers footed a bill of R7.5 million for accommodation, R6 986 on entertainment and R443 146 on catering for Cele, Mathale and  ministerial staff over the period.

For other officials, the police spent R1.5 billion on accommodation, R1.8 million on entertainment, and R42.3 million on catering.

“Entertainment expenses relates to refreshments, in the form of coffee, tea, non-alcoholic beverages and biscuits, for visitors to the offices of all Senior Management Service (SMS) members in the Ministry and the SAPS including Station Commanders, which will not exceed two thousand rand (R2 000) per SMS member or Station Commander (irrespective of rank) cumulatively per financial year,” reads Cele’s reply.

“It should be noted that accommodation expenditure of officials in the SAPS, will realise at higher levels in instances where officials had to be accommodated away from their normal place of work, due to specific operational needs and deployment requirements, i.e. unrest periods, election, other events of national importance, detached duties, investigation of criminal cases, etc.”

No explanation for the catering costs was provided.

READ | The thin blue line gets thinner as visible policing budget continues to shrink

The police’s dwindling budget has been a concern during the period.

The Portfolio Committee on Police heard in April this year, when the police’s budget for the 2022/23 financial year was presented, that the budget for visible policing would again decline, as it had the year before.

The police also continue to spend more money on protection services than on investigating so-called priority crimes, as the budget for protection services is higher than that of the Hawks.

The police’s budget for the 2022/23 financial year is R100.695 billion, compared to the previous year’s R100.474 billion.

Visible policing budget down

Committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson said at the time that, despite the nominal increase of about R225 million from the previous year’s budget, their allocation in real terms had decreased by R4.1 billion.

According to the police’s presentation to the committee, visible policing was the only one of their five main programmes that would receive less money this year than it did in 2021/22.

The police’s administration will get R20.361 billion in 2022/23, an increase of R102 million from the previous year.

The visible policing budget for 2022/23 is R51.716 billion, a drop of R508 million.

Detective services get R20.760 billion, an increase of R427 million.

Crime Intelligence gets R4.362 billion, an increase of R65 million. Protection and Security Services get R3.496 billion, an increase of R35 million.   

The police’s chief financial officer remarked that these increases were less than inflation.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, better known as the Hawks, receives its budget out of the R20.760 billion budgeted for detective services.

It only gets R2.167 billion, or 10.48%, of this figure.

However, it increases by 4.67% from the previous year’s R2.079 billion.

READ | Broken: SA’s crime fighting crisis as budget cuts start to bite

When the police made a similar presentation to the committee last year, they indicated that visible policing’s budget had shrunk by almost R4 billion, with its sub-programme crime prevention absorbing most of the cut.

Commenting on Cele’s response, DA MP and spokesperson on police Andrew Whitfield said in a statement that, while Cele “blows the budget on catering and accommodation, visible policing has suffered personnel and budget cuts over the years while millions of South Africans live in a permanent state of fear”.

DA MP Andrew Whitfield

Supplied GCIS

“The DA accepts that accommodation costs include the legitimate cost of housing SAPS members away from their ordinary duties, but the exorbitant amount must be investigated by the Portfolio Committee on Police. It is simply outrageous that SAPS is spending over R1.4 million per day housing SAPS members,” he said.

Whitfield said it “is unconscionable” that more than R1.5 billion could be spent on accommodation and R42.3 million on catering, but its frontline personnel, detectives and reservists were reduced “while South Africans are murdered, maimed and raped”.

“What more does Minister Cele need to do in order for President Ramaphosa to fire him? South Africans are sick and tired of his incompetence and disregard for them. It is time that Cele must go.”