Our zero this week is the North West provincial government, which has seen fit to buy the health MEC Magome Masike a luxury car costing around a million – his second within three years, and one that was reportedly paid for with funds originally meant for buying ambulances.
The Mail & Guardian reports that the Mercedes Benz ML500 cost the equivalent of three ambulances, and it’s taxpayers’ money that’s footing the bill. The province’s current ambulance fleet is under strain to provide speedy assistance to patients.
It seems that the provincial government has a penchant for expensive cars – we reported in January that its premier Thandi Modise bought herself a R1.3-million BMW 750i.
Both purchases were made just months after finance minister Pravin Gordhan announced a range of measures aimed at curbing excessive public spending – the buying of cars was included in his anti-spending strategy, revealed in October 2013.
According to the newspaper, Masike was advised against the purchase, by senior government officials, but went ahead anyway. If he is removed from his position when President Jacob Zuma announces his new government, he will have driven the car for a matter of weeks only.
The newspaper reported that it has seen documents that show that the car was paid for partly with funds meant for mobile clinics, and partly for funds meant for acquiring patient transport.
Before this latest purchase, Masike used a Mercedes-Benz GL500, because he declined the use of his predecessor’s BMW X5, which was only six months old when he took office.