Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini spent over R2 million on two new luxury ministerial cars in the last financial year, a parliamentary reply has revealed.
She and deputy minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu spent R1.3 million on a luxury BMW and R1.1 million on a Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2016/17, despite new government austerity measures, Dlamini said in a reply to a question on Wednesday.
She claimed the purchases were warranted, as the previous ministerial cars were bought in 2009, and they needed new cars to travel around Pretoria.
"The official Pretoria-based vehicles allocated to the minister and the deputy minister in 2009 have far exceeded the prescribed 120,000km and the five-year period," she said, citing the ministerial handbook.
"As such the purchase of new official vehicles became unavoidable and needed replacement due to high maintenance costs and security reasons."
Ministers and deputy ministers are allowed a maximum of two ministerial vehicles, one each for Pretoria and Cape Town.
"In compliance with the National Treasury's cost-containment measures, the department has delayed the purchase of official vehicles for Cape Town," she said.
The money was approved two years ago in the 2014/15 financial year, but she did not explain why the Pretoria cars were not purchased then.
Democratic Alliance MP Bridget Masango on Thursday said Dlamini's purchase was a "disgrace" in the face of growing poverty and unemployment in SA.
Dlamini on Wednesday told the social development committee that the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) needed R6 billion and at least five years to take over the social grants scheme fully. Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza had predicted two to three years.
She said Sassa currently did not have the expertise to manage the grants scheme on its own, and that South Africans should look at the sum as a long-term investment.
The current contract with outgoing service provider Cash Paymaster Services, which ends in March 2018, is currently worth a third of that, around R2 billion a year.