As with the manufacturing of Greg Vogt, so the appearance of transparency is manufactured rather than honesty itself.
A new, wise CEO, free of our town’s politics and social groups would have made bigger windows and kicked Knysna Tourism’s door wide open. The appointment of Vogt only makes sense if it’s to continue to shut the public and Tourism’s members out.
The choice of the right person to head the organisation should have spoken a lot by itself but when intending the insertion of Vogt they would have been aware that they’d have to use other tactics – thus Knysna Tourism has been repetitive regards their claims of the nobility of the CEO selection process. As marketers, they understand that sufficient repetition, not facts, makes truth in the public mind. Unfortunately for them, readers on this blog are interested in facts.
115 applicants. Surely a possible, first question in many minds would have been: “Why was Greg Vogt even on that list?” Consider that throughout this blog.
In their press release, they state that: “The shortlisted individuals were required to complete the EvaleX Managerial Talent Assessment – a comprehensive assessment battery consisting of two main components, namely a management simulation section which includes simulated management situations and case studies and a more traditional psychometrics section, looking at: intelligence, personality type and interests. In addition, some important cross-cutting competencies were also tested for, including strategic capacity and emotional maturity.”
That sounds impressive but important to note that only 5 of the candidates took the EvaleX test. That test is commonly utilised by our local government so why have they repeatedly made a big deal about it with regards Greg Vogt. Why have they repeatedly had to justify their choice?
Vogt also had an advantage which was having been the leader pretend of Knysna Tourism for the previous 21 months. Instead of electing a new CEO, as the rules of governance required, the Tourism Board instead kept the details of Knysna Tourism’s bankruptcy hidden from the public. At one stage, they were jointly paying Greg Vogt and a consultant, likely Dirk Joubert (a consultant from ODA), more than a CEO’s salary yet Vogt was claiming that Knysna Tourism was saving money by not having a CEO. Essential to these against-the-public decisions were directors Lauren Waring (Municipal Manager), Stephen de Vries (ANC Chief Whip) and Nan Raturat (owner Villa Castollini), the same people that landed up hiring Vogt as CEO.
Then there’s the massive lie about background checks on Greg Vogt. In a press release, Nan Raturat said: “We are happy to make this announcement today, after a rigorous process wherein the Board ensured that due diligence was followed. We are confident that Mr Vogt is what Knysna Tourism needs to take us into the future.” At the press conference announcing Vogt’s appointment, Stephen de Vries confirmed that with, “After the reference checks were completed the candidates were evaluated by several competency based exercises.”
But those reference checks never happened which means there was no “due diligence”. They never contacted the Knysna Elephant Park nor Conservation Global which constituted 8 years of his career. If they had, they would have discovered that his last two employers were very unhappy with him. I know more but owing to possible legal actions (no, not against me), I will wait for now. I have yet to confirm it but another source said that an employer before that, a third, wasn’t contacted either.
Why did they lie outright to the public???
It gets scarier…
De Vries explained how the 115 were whittled down to 38: “Based upon a schedule of all applications received, as well as their CVs, the consultant facilitated an agreement on a list of 38 candidates possible appointees which was then cut down to a shortlist of five persons.”
That consultant was Dirk Joubert from ODA. Leslie Pieters, a well-known restauranteur who the observer to the process stated that, “ODA has fulfilled the role of facilitator with many Municipalities and Tourism authorities for many years. ODA has served as a consultant to the Knysna Municipality for the best part of 14 years… He has been involved in the selection process of the past 4 CEO’s of Knysna Tourism. In each case he had worked with, had knowledge of, or had interacted with various candidates that had applied for the position. This time it was no different. The process in each case, including this one, required the sorting out of over a hundred applicants, to a shortlist, then after more checks and balances, to a final five candidates. Dirk Joubert’s role as the facilitator of this process did not compromise or complicate the process.”
I appreciate Pieter’s replies to several of my questions, especially since getting responses from the powers that be is normally as difficult as eating a toffee apple in a nanosecond. However, the very things that he claims are a credit to Dirk Joubert, should be considered as liabilities.
Joubert’s role requires impartiality but that is impossible because:
- Joubert earns money from Knysna Municipality which is run by Municipal Manager Lauren Waring who is not only one of Tourism’s directors central to the cover-up of what happened at Knysna Tourism but is also one of the 3 directors selecting Vogt for the CEO position. Waring is responsible for Joubert getting work. There doesn’t have to be any accusation of Joubert doing wrong but there’s certainly a conflict of interest to be considered.
- Joubert worked with Vogt inside Knysna Tourism for months, maybe as much as a year. Between them, they’ve made a plan that will alter Tourism so that you no longer recognise it. The change in Tourism’s role will be voted on at the annual AGM later this month. Joubert got paid handsomely. Vogt got the CEO position.
Manipulation of the public was immediate as Mayor Georlene Wolmarans stated that, “Mr Vogt is a dynamic leader who brings a remarkable set of skills, knowledge and experience to Knysna Tourism. He has a proven ability to motivate individuals, drive innovation, ensure meticulous execution and deliver results. His leadership is exactly what we need as a new chapter opens for Knysna Tourism. Council is confident that with Mr Vogt at the helm our tourism industry will continue on a path of success.”
She ignored that Vogt was, by Tourism’s own rules, responsible for the bankruptcy. She was deliberately deceptive as she was a director, alongside him, when it happened. If Vogt is a villain, she’s liable. If Vogt is a hero, then she’s not liable. It’s not a compliment by her, just another part of the cover-up.
Let’s return to the elephant issue. I don’t believe that it was a coincidence that the most relevant and controversial query was the first question… and then so easily dismissed even though the issue itself was unanswered. He was the manager of the holdings of the Knysna Elephant Park for 7 years. His job required him visiting their other facilities, one of which is where the elephant torture took place. Secondly, he was aware that all the elephants were forcibly trained. How do we treat his statement, “My passion is conservation ethics,” when he was (or still is) the manager of the Elephant Trainer’s Association (ETA)? Yes, he’s been involved in a lot of elephant research, some of it likely important to conservation but is that the heart of a man or a man building a career?
In 2007, Vogt, said that, “ETA had produced “norms and standards” for itself, “and that no other monitoring or regulation is necessary.” Considering how that worked out, and similarly what happened at Knysna Tourism, is Greg Vogt the right CEO for an organisation’s whose slogan is “Naturally Knysna”?
So who asked that first question about the elephants at the CEO announcement? It was Martin Hatchuel, a man who works in the tourism industry and was critical of me during the Shaun van Eck saga. Although Van Eck and Vogt are on opposite sides, both carried the CEO of Knysna Tourism title so it could be said that Hatchuel supports Tourism in all its forms. But something else could be said too.
Hatchuel has previously written that, “Tourism is all about perceptions, and perceptions are easily damaged… If you want to promote positive perceptions of your country, your organisation or your business, you have to be ready for critical incidents… This is not to say that you should give away anything that could incriminate you or your organisation, or could hurt the victims or their loved ones. But you should immediately make decisions on what you are prepared to say, need to say and can (legally and morally) say to the media…”
Vogt’s response to his name being linked to the elephant scandal was: “I don’t need to defend it and I won’t defend it. I made a difference and none of that is under question in the two cases that are there… It’s equipped me to be a better CEO than many people realise.”
Lauren Waring: “With all that’s going on, why…that’s a logical question… The Board took advice on the matter. We spoke to legal practitioners… we spoke to environmentalists and we spoke to various authorities that are concerned in this matter or similar matters. And, based on that, there is an issue, it’s not going to go away, it can’t go away… but that shouldn’t prejudice the appointment, in any way, of Greg. The Board will take steps to protect or mitigate any reputational risk that this might pose… One of the reasons why i’m on the Board is to protect the Municipality’s investment.”
By asking the most explosive question first, and then rushing into other questions without it being answered, the possibility that Tourism manipulated the situation must be considered. How Vogt, clouded in elephant dung, could be hired to run an organisation that runs on image, was not answered. It was deliberately dodged by Vogt.
And Waring, the Municipal Manager who was involved in hiring him (and a culpable director like Mayor Wolmarans) said a bunch of words that she never substantiated. Who were all the people “they” consulted? Who is “we”? Why should they have to risk reputation so as to protect it? The biggest joke was her last line as it was the Municipality run by her that told the Public Protector they couldn’t help him as Knysna Tourism was a Section 21 company.
What ‘dazzled’ many was Vogt’s claim that he never considered being CEO until he was asked if he was by Waring. You need to compare what she says on the video to what he says in this interview with Pieter Cloete on Knysna FM. Does that sound like Waring and Vogt planned that story?
The Knysna-Plett Herald reported that, “The media’s response at the announcement ceremony was noticeably unenthusiastic. After the announcement [of Vogt as CEO], one could hear a pin drop.”
The Gremlin stated: “Greg Vogt’s appointment is bound to raise a few eyebrows.”
On Look4It, a commentator said: “A sad and tragic day for Knysna and Knysna Tourism, in particular. Quite clear that meaningful research was not undertaken on his background and further evidence that Ms Waring is so out of her depth. Mr Vogt can be summed up in two words and it ain’t ‘Bon voyage’.”
One of the CEO candidates who never got the job sent me an email in which he/she stated that:
“On hearing of the appointment of the previous Chairman of the board, I question whether we were not simply pawns in a process so as to appear to be following the correct procedures and governance?
It would appear rather futile to be competing with the previous chairman of board when his peers on the board were making the final appointment, and at the same time, the selfsame chairman was the person who initiated the new strategy for Knysna Tourism going forward. Without doubt an uneven playing field, and for the suspicious, one that would appear rather dubious to say the least.
I certainly would have been intrigued to see the results of each of the “candidates” applications, including the series of assessment tests that we were required to undergo, and the actual interviews, the results of these might clear up any suspicions of irregularity or favoritism.
I understand that I might not have been the type of candidate they were looking for but in the back of my mind I still question whether it wasn’t simply a sham so that everything appears above board.”