In Knysna Municipality‘s own Knynsa Oversight Report 2011-2012, which was adopted on March 28 2013, they said: “The municipality is making use of service providers that deliver services to the municipality and community, and therefore should report on its performances. Particular attention should be given to Knysna Tourism and other service providers that deliver critical services to the municipality and/or are of significant monetary value.”
That was rhetoric and a serious understatement as, from 2011 onwards, Knysna Tourism experienced a financial disaster of which the Knysna Municipality and the DA was aware of but chose to address only once Knysna Tourism was practically bankrupt, able to only pay salaries. Despite being informed early on, the ANC and COPE were non-existent as opposition or inquirers. This allowed Knysna Tourism to be controlled by ‘outside interests’ as it is a special entity, a service provider to the DA-run municipality, reliant on a handout that comprises the majority of its budget which enables it to gain the rest of its budget except for membership fees.
That the Knysna Oversight Report 2011-2012 only gave Knysna Tourism one line when it has been a continuous, public disaster the past year showed how the Knysna Municipality, and the DA (Democratic Alliance) running it, were deliberately choosing understatement e.g. Knysna Tourism has been without a CEO since September 2012 (9 months at the time of composing this blog).
I suggest that this purpose was two-fold for the sake of image:
- Political image – in support of the falsehood that the DA is saintly (when has the battle for economic power between political parties ever been that?). If screw-ups are hidden, more votes are likely to be won. Looking at what has happened, and is happening, on the Garden Route (Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay and Knynsa), politics is a vicious battle with both sides in the wrong. The fact is that the public has been ignored, municipal staff salaries and actions seemingly supported by which political party interests’ are supported.
- Tourism image – the holy grail of Knysna which finds problems being denied or lessened for the sake of it when the reality is that problems not admitted to can never be properly fixed. Short-term gain equals long-term loss.
Of particular note has been the role of the media (local newspapers) who utterly failed to report the stories despite being repeatedly informed that questionable actions were afoot. Their media bias was the same as participating in the crimes and secrecy which weakened Knysna financially. They chose to let Knysna down! Why would they do that? I assume personal relationships and that advertizing revenues, from Knysna Municipality and Knysna Tourism, were being protected. Their actions and non-actions destroyed their credibility as independent media and made them complicit (they will be addressed and held accountable through a different forum).
It is a crime against Knysna that so many were involved through either misdeed or in the criminal belief that the public doesn’t have the right to know. It is possible that that opposition was minimal or non-existent because Knysna Tourism carries the clout of determining who gets sponsorship, a decision that seems to not always be supported by the best person or event receiving it but rather via politicism, BEE shams and favouritism to associates.
Summarily, the Knysna Tourism Board and the Knysna Municipality must be investigated for:
- Appointment of service providers without proper process and in violation of the applicable procurement policies and legislation of the MFMA (Municipal Finance Management Act).
- The covering up of corruption and maladministration and the failure to report respectively in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act and the MFMA.
- The wasteful and highly irresponsible spending of the Knysna Tourism surplus budget (an amount in the millions) by their ex-CEO over which the Knysna Tourism Board provided no oversight and the expected quarterly, financial reports.
- Favouritism with regards sponsorship and tenders.
- Failure to address irregularities presented by a Tourism member.
- Failure to allow the presence of an aggrieved Tourism member with the Tourism Board as stipulated by the rules of Knysna Tourism.
- Failure to provide the constitution of Knysna Tourism and associated rules.
- Withholding information which falls in the public domain.
- Withholding information from a member of Knysna Tourism.
- Limited discovery of deviations i.e. failure to tell the public exactly what had gone wrong.
- Unconstitutional rule changes within Knysna Tourism so as to prevent queries.
- Failure to uphold democracy when preventing access to Knysna Municipality by blocking email addresses.
- Likely contravention of the Archives Act which is punishable with a R10 000 fine per instance.
- Instances of maladministration or fraud which have not being fully investigated and pursued so as to fulfill their duty to protect the interests of the Knysna public and Knysna Tourism members.
Full allegations can only be determined after full disclosure but include (and are therefore not limited to):
- Knysna Tourism’s petty cash run through a private account with monies owed to the account by the ex-CEO. What was personal versus business and why was it not reported by the accountant over such a long period?
- Knysna Tourism using public and tourism monies to grant loans to private businesses has been admitted to but how did it happen at all?
- That an employee’s holiday to Jamaica was converted into a business trip and paid for by public money for the sake of the Rastafari Community of Knysna, who were unaware of the approximate R36 000 sponsorship amount on their behalf, defies belief. The ex-CEO was found guilty of misleading the Board regards this trip so it seems incredible that this employee, generally seen as his right-hand ‘man’, could have believed that ‘their’ trip was justifiably for the benefit of Knysna.
- Failure to query the politicians on their Board of the twinning agreements with French cities that were obviously suppose to also have implications for Knysna’s tourism industry.