This is the merry-go-round I’ve been forced to ‘play’ on for 2 years, 8 months, 2 weeks and 5 days – I’ve been denied access to information that should have been public. The deniers have been the Knysna Municipality and the DA. Even the ‘DA Corruption Hotline’ and ‘DA-run Eden District Anti Fraud Hotline’ have remained silent to my submissions. This can only be viewed as a deliberate obstruction which fattened the question: “What are they hiding?”
I resurface the topic of the Knysna Tourism budget (as part of the bigger disaster of maladministration and possibly fraud) because there have been new developments in that Minister Alan Winde, Magda Moos and Peter Myers (the latter two from the Knysna DA Constituency), have promised to deliver me the answers. I have heard such promises from the DA before but all were a lie (see the list of people I’ve contacted here). I can hope that this time is different but to ensure that all is 100% clear, during which they’ve spread disinformation about me, I’ve composed several blogs as a build-up of which this is one.
It should be noted that I had already approached Alan Winde on this topic (and more) on several occasions the past 2 years as he is the Minister for Finance and Tourism for the Western Cape, the representative for the Knysna Constituency, visits Knysna Tourism and meets Michelle Wasserman (DA Speaker & Tourism Board Director) and Greg Vogt (Chairman of the Tourism Board) on a regular basis.
Premier Helen Zille claimed many meetings by the DA with me, implying they had helped – that isn’t true. Alan Winde, in the meeting I’ve still to blog about, concurred with Helen, saying that I had been given the budget to which I pointed out that I’d clearly asked for a detailed budget and not a summary, as I have so many times before. Without knowing who got the money and seeing proof of tenders, how will we ever understand how Knysna Tourism went from R3.5million in the green to bankrupt and having to borrow half a million to keep the most important office in our tourist-based town open.
Alan Winde promised to deliver the requested budget within 3 days, emailing Greg Vogt during our meeting. 6 days later I received the same budget summaries that tell us nothing. Alan Winde did say, however, that, “I am aware that Mike’s mail below asks for deeper detail on the tourism budgets. Once he gives me the detail needed I will ask for it on your behalf and report back to the group.” I have given such before so can’t help but wonder if this is just another delay tactic as elections approach.
It must be kept foremost in mind that the Tourism office has run without a CEO for almost 18 months, paid the ex-CEO a small fortune to sign a non-disclosure agreement, has been illegally paying money to Greg Vogt via a third party, and has refused to give details to its Section 21 members and the public (the latter is very relevant under the Municipal Finance Management Act as most of their funding is derived from the taxpayer). It is highly unlikely that Tourism doesn’t have all the information on hand – after all, the Board Members, which included several DA Councillors, charged the ex-CEO with 4 charges of gross misconduct. The reason for them to keep it quiet is because the constitution says that they are ultimately responsible. They further blockaded the public by illegally changing their constitution to, essentially, threatening members if they contradicted the Directors – they made it blatant that questions are not welcomed.
Basil Michaelides, the auditor, who is on the finance committee with the DA Speaker, Michelle Wasserman, never responded to my email query as well. He, more than most, will be aware of the accounting problems at Knysna Tourism. Recently, his company was subsumed by Grant Thornton South Africa who describes themselves as “leaders in our chosen market, providing assurance, tax and specialist business advice to dynamic organisations – listed companies, large privately held businesses and private equity-backed organisations.” So I contacted Grant Thornton and was pleased with the rapid response of Deepak Nagar, the National Chairman who said, “we are looking into this matter as a matter of urgency and will revert”. However, 24 days later, they haven’t and in that period Basil Michaelides, so I’ve been told, has resigned as an auditor from Knysna Tourism – that’s far too coincidental.