Dear Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, this is my SEVENTH COMPLAINT of alleged maladministration and corruption submitted to the Eden District office of the Public Protector.
Why did the Knysna Democratic Alliance allow the use of public funds to pay for the studies of then ANC Chief Chip Stephen de Vries and his right-hand man, Clive Witbooi? Why were the public, who voted for the DA, not told?
It was even more bizarre that there was no practical opposition from the ANC for the 5 years between elections. So much went wrong under DA role, scandal after scandal, but none of the opposition parties used that as a weapon. Their occasional protest in Council Chambers seemed for the benefit of a few onlookers rather than the value because none of the issues, as far as I know, were submitted to higher bodies such as the SAPS or Public Protector.
And the ANC, like the DA, refused to respond to the evidence I provided.
Were the ANC and DA working together against the public? It’s worry considering that Democratic Alliance Mayor Eleanore Spies used to be the ANC Mayor and, previous to that, worked with Stephen de Vries in the ANC’s Regional Executive Committee. It’s also notable that the DA never prosecuted Spies’ then-husband, Rowan Spies, for being a key figure in an ANC grafting scandal in neighbouring Plettenberg Bay.
Whether these oddities are connected, as has been rumoured, has never been determined and may never be. Consequently, although some questions are asked, the argument here focuses mostly on facts and legal points regarding the study payments which I consider to be illegal.
Were public funds abused? Was the public screwed again?
COMPLAINT TO THE PUBLIC PROTECTOR #7
MICHAEL HAMPTON Complainant
submits to the
PUBLIC PROTECTOR (GEORGE OFFICE) Receiver
STUDIES OF ANC COUNCILLORS
ILLEGALLY PAID BY KNYSNA MUNICIPALITY
WITH SUSPICIOUSLY NO OBJECTION
BY THE DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE
I, the undersigned,
MICHAEL JAMES HAMPTON
State under oath, in English, that:
I am an adult male of 44 years of age and a resident of Knysna, contactable through firstname.lastname@example.org. I operate online as Love Knysna and Knysna Keep. My political writing is the most well-read and known in the area. As I’m an activist and citizen journalist with enemies, further contact details and proof of identity will be provided directly to the Public Protector.
The facts contained herein, save where indicated otherwise, are within my own personal knowledge and are to the best of my knowledge and belief both true and correct.
The facts of this matter require investigation.
I’m an activist and citizen journalist based in Knysna. I operate online as Love Knysna and Knysna Keep. My political writing is the most well-read and known in the area.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has ruled Knysna the past 6 years, since 2011. Eleanore Bouw-Spies was the DA Speaker when Georlene Wolmarans was the DA Mayor. With the August 3 2016 elections, their roles reversed i.e. Bouw-Spies is now the Mayor and Wolmarans the Speaker i.e there has been continuity of office and responsibility.
The African National Congress (ANC) has been the official opposition, with Stephen de Vries as Chief Whip from 2011 to August 2 2016. Clive Litoli was an ANC councillor for the same time period, considered by some to be his right-hand man. De Vries is now an Eden Councillor for the ANC. With the past local election, Witbooi lost office.
This is my seventh in a series of complaints to the Public Protector. It must be seen in the greater context of all my submissions to the Public Protector.
WHERE’S THE OPPOSITION?
Considering my Complaints to the Public Protector 1->6, it’s obvious that there has been questionable activities and turmoil in the Knysna Municipality. Glaringly absent has been action by the opposition. It’s reasonable to conclude that the situations I’ve described should have been political goldmines to true opposition parties.
It cannot be proven but it’s my opinion that political parties, as cohesive wholes, rarely exist in Knysna. Instead, there are cross-party interest groups.
It’s possible that previous relationships affect such e.g. historically, the ANC’s Regional Executive Committee (REC) found friends Eleonore Bouw-Spies, Stephen de Vries and Victor Malosi working together. Bouw-Spies became the ANC Mayor. On her first day of the job as DA, she became Speaker. At that time, De Vries was the ANC Chief Whip. Now Bouw-Spies is the DA Mayor and Malosi is the ANC Chief Whip.
It is also strongly rumoured that in 2011, Bouw-Spies, De Vries and Malosi helped Sopeki, who’d broken away from the ANC, to win Ward 8. In 2016, it’s strongly rumoured that ex-ANC Councillor Velile Waxa was helped by the DA, as spearheaded by Councillor Peter Myers (who’d become Deputy mayor), to Win Ward 4. The DA then formed a coalition with him.
As said, collusion for self-interest cannot be proven but the absent of effective opposition is notable.
What can be investigated is the Knysna Municipality’s illegal payment of higher studies’ fees for ANC Councillors Stephen de Vries and Clive Witbooi. Then it must be asked why the DA never objected.
PAYMENT OF STUDIES
From 2014 to 2016, the Knysna Municipality contributed towards the study fees for an Honours degree in Public Administration for ANC Chief Whip Stephen de Vries and for a Higher Diploma in Public Administration for ANC Councillor Clive Witbooi.
The total paid is unknown but in 2015 it was R28,000 for Stephen de Vries alone.
MUNICIPAL FINANCE MANAGEMENT ACT (MFMA)
(1) No municipality or municipal entity may
(c) make loans to-
councillors or officials of the municipality;
directors or officials of the entity; or
members of the public.
(2) If a municipality or municipal entity on the date on which this section takes effect is engaged in any activity prohibited by subsection (1)(a) or (b) and which is otherwise lawful, the municipality or entity must take all reasonable steps to rectify its position and to comply with that subsection as soon as may be reasonable in the circumstances.
Any remuneration paid or given in cash or in kind to a person as a political office-bearer or as a member of a political structure of a municipality otherwise than in accordance with subsection (1), including any bonus, bursary, loan, advance or other benefit, is an irregular expenditure, and the municipality-
(a) must, and has the right to, recover that remuneration from the political office-bearer or member; and
(b) may not write off any expenditure incurred by the municipality in paying or giving that remuneration.
The MEC for local government in a province must report to the provincial legislature-
(a) any transgressions of subsection (1); and
(b) any non-compliance with sections 17(3)(k)(i) and (ii) and 124(1)(a).
REMUNERATION OF PUBLIC OFFICE BEARER’S ACT, 1988
Under ‘Capacity Building’, it is stated that:
1. A municipality may, in addition to the annual total remuneration packages provided for in terms of items 5 and 8 respectively, contribute towards the payment of costs towards capacity building programmes of councillors.
2. These capacity-building programs may include specific training conducted by national departments, associated government agencies and SETAs, provincial departments, municipalities and organised local government through institutions of Higher Learning and Further Education and Training Colleges.
3. The training programmes must be informed by capacity building needs of councillors to fulfil their statutory obligations and affordability by a municipality.
The payment of the studies for De Vries and Witbooi didn’t comply because:
They weren’t organised by local government.
They weren’t “capacity building” to “fulfil statutory obligations”.
They were not affordable to the Knysna Municipality which has experienced financial challenges requiring it to take loans at high interest rates.
Consequently, it’s inappropriate that Municipal Manager Grant Easton stated to the Knysna-Plett Herald on:
February 18 2015: “The National Treasury stipulates that local government has a responsibility to see that councillors undergo the necessary training.” [ISP01]
February 23 2015: That it is allowed under Regulation 16 of the Determination of Upper Limits of Salaries, Allowances and Benefits of Councillors. [ISP02]
As is clear from paras 18 and 19 of this affidavit, such is patently untrue in this context.
Furthermore, section 16 of the stated Act states that such is irregular expenditure that must be recovered.
COGTA AGREES WITH ME
Loyiso Ncoko from Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) reaffirmed my opinion on the matter when he provided definition to what is “capacity building” [ISP03]:
“Capacity building funded by the municipality for councillors we regarded as an irregular expenditure previously in terms of section 167 of the MFMA because they were not covered in the Notice by the Minister on remuneration and benefits for councillors. In order to respond to this unfortunate situation, a provision was made in the 2013 / 14 Notice for municipalities to set aside budget intended for training and development of councillors on programmes conducted by provincial, national departments and organised local government through institutions of higher learning. As an emphasis, this has been prohibited previously and classified as an irregular expenditure in terms of section 167 of the Municipal Finance Management Act.
Since now legally it is within the gazette of the Minister on remuneration and benefits of councillors, it responds to section 167 of the MFMA. However, for implementation purposes the gazette emphasises that municipality must apply to the MEC for local government to determine the affordability of the remuneration and benefits, this implies municipalities cannot go and implement the gazette without the concurrence of the MEC.
Since the implementation by the municipality requires concurrence from the MEC all municipalities must abide by the decision of the MEC. If municipalities have implemented without the concurrence of the MEC that is in breach of section 167 (a) of MFMA then section 167 (2) will apply to recover that money (refer to extract below).
Lastly, it is important to note that all training programmes in a municipality are informed by the workplace skills plan of each municipality in order for everyone to undergo training programmes that are work related. Municipalities must also have council policies that do not conflict with legislation in order to support the implementation of their capacity building programmes.”
I made several queries but none were answered. Unfortunately, I no longer have all the emails due to loss in computer transfer but did find one dated May 19 2015 wherein it was listed as one of several items [ISP04]. It may have been too late to include on the Mayoral agenda that week but it must be noted that, to date, there has never been a response on that item or the others. In fact, that email had to be sent from a personal email because the Knysna Municipality was blocking my other email addresses.
As a follow-up to a conversation with Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, there was a brief mention in an email dated July 27 2016. She too failed to respond [ISP05].
The total cost of the studies paid from public funds.
The policy Grant Easton refers to in para 20.1.
The Knysna Municipality’s policy on bursaries and how it’s determined who receives more than another.
Proof that it was implemented with concurrence from the MEC.
Proof that it was annually budgeted for, and for how much.
If any other councillors received funding.
An explanation why those I contacted never responded to me.
The monies paid towards the studies of Stephen de Vries and Clive Witbooi must be deemed irregular expenditure and recovered as per section 167 (2) of the MFMA.
Those studies were towards self-interest, not public interest. The situation is emphasised when considering that they are no longer councillors in the Knysna Municipality.
Yours in hope of investigation leading to correction,
MICHAEL JAMES HAMPTON