President Jacob Zuma says, if he could, he would likely override decisions about multi-million rand renovations made to presidential houses.
He told a business breakfast meeting on Tuesday that he only found out about renovations being done to presidential residences when he read about them in newspapers.
"I wish I was the one who takes decisions about renovations of presidential residences," Zuma said.
"Those are taken by specific departments without consulting with me. You don't even know how much it is. You only see it in newspapers."
Zuma said he would probably take different decisions.
"I am sure my decisions would be different.
"I have no problem as president to live in my own simple house."
However, he was wary of being called a dictator.
"I wish I could override everything but they would call me a dictator," Zuma quipped when asked about overriding the decision to renovate the houses.
"You would say this president is a dictator. You cannot have dictators in this country."
Last month, the public works ministry gave Parliament supposedly incorrect information about the R170 million cost of renovating Zuma's official residence in Pretoria.
However, it emerged that the proposed renovations had been cancelled in March.