As expressed in ‘New R6.6m Financial Crisis for Knysna’, the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee meeting held in the Knysna Council Chamber was hair-raising.
It was again confirmed that the DA and Municipal Manager Lauren Waring have been lying to the public about Knysna’s financial stability. It’s so easy to twisted the situation out of context by saying, for example, that we have billions in assets… but when you realise that potholed roads and bursting pipes are part of those ‘assets’ then you understand the situation better.
Knysna’s assets are valued at R21.194 billion, said Michael Rhode, the Director of Technical Services. Without maintenance, they last less and cost more to repair. According to NIMS (National Infrastructure Maintenance Strategy), Knysna must spend R88million annually for such maintenance but last year only spent R36million (R52million less). This means that no matter how much they spend this year, it will not make a dent into the backlog.
When Grant Easton,the Director of Finance, stood up in the public gallery and asked, ‘Do I need a microphone,” someone quipped, “No, we need money.” Everyone laughed.
“This is Africa,” said Easton and went on to explain in detail that Knysna’s standards and expectations need to be lowered. Albeit that controversial in itself, i’ll move on to why he stated that rates need to increase.
“Does the budget match reality? The Municipality is topographically inefficient. We’re becoming more and more reliant on government funds. For the past 3 budgets we’ve deliberately kept rates down. Ultimately, you have to make a decision on what rates will go up. Rates are going to have to go up in double figures. “
Lauren Waring, the Municipal Manager, said that it’s not hers or Easton’s job to find money. That is for managers, not CFOs, but that they’d try. She welcomed the Council to go through her budget line by line and said that the problem is, “Coming at us like a speed train.”
Easton and Waring’s obvious frustration gave the public a rare glimpse into Knysna’s reality.
Elrick van Aswegen, the councillor for COPE, put away his usual fiery character and said that, “We need to sit down as a Council and decide our prerogatives. I don’t see dark clouds. There are ways to budget without raising rates.”
Louisa Hart, the Chairperson of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee (part of her duties as a DA councillor on the Mayoral Committee) proposed that the councillors and directors get together ASAP. It was unanimously agreed.