Government is considering doing away with its policy that allows senior officials and ministers to take their spouses with them on overseas trips, Business Day reported. Director-general of the Presidency and secretary of Cabinet, Cassius Lubisi reportedly told DA MP David Maynier that government was reviewing the spousal accompanying benefit.
This reportedly follows a series of controversial trips by ministers where their spouses have accompanied them abroad at great expense to government.
Spousal accompaniment is allowed by the ministerial handbook, which has been under review since 2013. According to Daily Maverick, it allows for first class travel for both the official or minister and his or her spouse, and the costs are carried by the relevant department. It says that ministers who travel overseas must ask the president for permission two weeks ahead of time.
The handbook also reportedly says that international visits "should offer real value and benefit to the Republic of South Africa", and that members of the executive should "apply their minds cautiously" when deciding whether or not they should take their spouses or other officials along with them.
It has long been a controversial practise, but the latest example was when it was revealed that the state had spent R873 366, 68 on former finance minister Malusi Gigaba's wife, Norma, since 1 April 2017, for her to accompany the minister overseas.
According to Fin24, this was revealed in a reply to a parliamentary question by Maynier. Norma Gigaba reportedly accompanied her husband on trips to the United States, Japan, China, and Singapore in November 2017 alone, and was paid a daily allowance for the November trips of R15942.15.
Norma Gigaba also posted pictures on social media of her enjoying shopping trips abroad.