The office of the speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise on Monday confirmed that she has strongly objected to the Department of Public works’ R25 million plans to refurbish kitchens at Parliament.

Her office said “She objected to the excessively unjustifiable costs projected on the building plan, she said, not under her watch, particularly given the socio-economic hardship under which most South Africans live”.

Modise raised her objection in a briefing by the department on Friday to Parliament’s standing committee on the financial management, regarding infrastructure upgrades to the parliamentary precinct and the accommodation villages housing members of the legislature.

The plans included the renovations to the kitchens that serve parliamentary restaurants, a R68m upgrade to security at Parliament that would include an extension of the fence surrounding the precinct, and almost R100m to be spent on upgrading MPs homes.

DA MP Tim Brauteseth termed the proposed expenditure at Parliament and the department’s overall budget for so-called prestige projects of R423m as “ridiculous”.

He said what was particularly egregious was the department’s admission that upgrades to MPs homes would proceed in a blanket fashion, regardless of whether the property in question was in need of repair.

Faced with the committee’s objections, the department agreed to conduct house-by-house evaluations and only commence with repairs that were actually required.

Brauteseth said that the DA believed the only way South Africa could set out on a road to economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic “was the actual implementation of recovery plans”.

He further said this meant Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille should not waste money on unnecessary projects but rather allow the funds to be used for the Expanded Public Works Programme.

He added that “A fine way for that implementation to start would be for Minister De Lille to wake up, smell the economic misery and divert much-needed funds away from polishing prestige to Expanded Public Works Programme projects that can at least employ South Africans and provide some relief to those who have suffered under the disastrous national lockdown.”