DA slams Free State premier’s R11m Sopa

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Free State premier Sisi Ntombela. Picture: Gallo Images / The citizen

The Free State government splurged R11.6 million of taxpayers’ money on Premier Sisi Ntombela’s State of the Province address (Sopa), and the DA says even the State of the Nation Adddress cost a quarter of this amount.

In reply to a question by the Democratic Alliance (DA), the premier said the cost of Sopa 2019 was R9 371 633.56. The DA said that combined with the R2 300 000 spent by the legislature on the event, the total spent on this one-day event came to R11 671 633.56.

“In contrast, Premier Helen Zille’s Sopa in the Western Cape cost only R101 383.75.

“Even the State of the Nation address (Sona) cost just a quarter of this amount, namely R2.5 million,” Roy Jankielsohn, DA member of the Free State legislature and leader of opposition in the legislature, said yesterday.

The largest amount, more than R4.3 million, was spent on catering and structures, just over R3 million went on transport, while over R1.9 million was spent on media.

The party slammed speaker of the legislature Mamiki Qabathe and Ntombela for ignoring the decision of the budget and oversight committee of the legislature for the event to be held at the Fourth Raadzaal to minimise costs.

“The speaker displayed total disregard for the decision of the budget and oversight committee, which implies the amounts spent by the legislature could be regarded as irregular expenditure,” Jankielsohn said.

He said that throughout her term of office, Qabathe had been a law unto herself. This had forced the DA to take legal steps to get her to hold regular meetings of the rules and orders committee.

“In spite of being informed by members of the rules and orders committee of the decision by the budget and oversight committee to minimise the costs of the Sopa, she blatantly ignored this and proceeded to arrange the event at Vista University in conjunction with the premier,” Jankielsohn charged.

The DA said this amount spent on the Sopa could have built 75 houses for the poor. A single low-cost house costs about R155 000 to build.

The Free State government did not respond to request for comment on the matter.

Sipho Mabena / The Citizen