Parliament relocation a red herring?

Pravin Gordhan has had it with waste. He had harsh words for his fellow MPs during the mini-budget a couple of weeks ago. Cut up those credit cards and stop milking the state he seemed to be saying.

Poor old Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas, having to pay for her own take-out habit.

But Gordhan also sneakily reignited that old chestnut which so riles Capetonians: the debate about moving Parliament from Cape Town.

Gordhan - and others - made that emotive argument. Surely money would be saved if Parliament moved? No more air-tickets, accommodation and transport for out-of-town MPs and it's more convenient for all concerned, right?

On the face of it Gordhan may be right but one suspects that when all the number crunching is done, it's a question of six of one and half a dozen of the other.

A few simple questions flow from Gordhan's assertion; where in the North will Parliament be housed and who will staff it?

There seems to be an assumption that all the staff currently at Parliament could simply be relocated.

That would not be the case.

Many of the administrative and bureaucratic staff within Parliament are highly skilled officers with expertise and years of experience in the processes and procedures of Parliament.

Re-hiring and training new staff for a new Parliament will be easier said than done.

In addition, someone will have to pay for a new building and that would be you and me, citizen.

In any event, while the media seems to be making us believe that Parliament would be moving next year, Gordhan made no concrete suggestions in this regard while Minister Collins Chabane neatly batted the question away by saying it was a decision 'for the legislature to make.'

So any immediate action on moving Parliament, if it ever happens, is some way off.

There is no doubt though that costs can and should be cut.

Greater use of Skype and other facilities ought to be standard across government and quite why it is necessary for ministers to travel with so much expensive detail when coming to Cape Town remains a mystery.

The messages politicians send matter.

Driving through depressed townships in German cars worth a million sends out a message of disconnect and foments anger.

So let's have the 'Parliament must move' debate but let's also not forget about other areas of excess which seem too politically sensitive to stem.

Unfortunately for Gordhan the day after his speech a story broke in which questions were raised about the back-log of rates on a property belonging to Gordhan's boss - Number One himself.

Not a great start to this Time of Austerity.

Perhaps we could also start by unravelling the costs for the Presidential homestead at Nkandla and have the President pay for this offensive excess?

So, Parliament moving may well be a 'red herring' in this debate.

There are myriad ways in which to save money and walk the talk.

But it has to start at the very top.

Judith February is executive director: Democracy and Governance at the HSRC. The views expressed are her own.