Yesterdays Special Council meeting in Knysna was spectacularly inept or devious. The DA so screwed up this one that even the ANC, who i consider to be the worst opposition ever, managed to make good points. Good points, when you’re the opposition, mean nothing as the vote will always go against you. The vote went against Knysna too.
The management of Knysna’s half a billion budget is obviously important so the big question is why, here, did the DA fail in its oversight role?
On February 14 2014, a Special Council meeting was called to approve the 2013/2014-2014/2015 Adjustments Budget. The meeting lasted only a few minutes after the opposition (ANC, COPE and an Independent) pointed out that 3 attachments were missing. Instead of setting a date for the next day (or as soon as possible), the meeting was postponed by 2 weeks until the 27th of February, 1 day before the deadline. Considering how much bulkier the adjustments budget became, and the vitally important matters that were added, is it possible that the DA deliberately kept the public and the opposition uninformed so as to push through their controversial agenda?
COUNCIL PURCHASE OF R1.4MILLION HOUSE
On the original agenda was Municipal Manager Lauren Waring’s decision to purchase a house in Clyde Street (the same street where their offices are) for R1.4million. The argument was that they were renting 2 offices in Main Street and so it’s better to own. Outside the context of Knysna’s poor financial situation, it’s understandable to look towards the future growth of the town. In context, is it appropriate to spend so much money we don’t have? Is the property worth that price? Furthermore, they would have to erect a new building, with more costs, if offices were to be viable.
Elrick van Aswegen, the lone COPE representative, pointed out that just before apartheid ended the all-white Council had sold off Municipal properties which had led to this situation. Furthermore, he said that it was ridiculous that Knysna Secondary (the main high school in the Coloured areas of Hornlee) had to pay Knysna High School for use of their fields which used to be Council Land (note that Knysna Tourism pays R300 000 rental for the same ground each Oyster Festival).
Van Aswegen, backed by the ANC, also pointed out that the sale agreement had only one signature instead of six and that it was the signature of a witness (Val Walkey, the estate agent) which begs the question, “What was she witnessing?” Ray Barrell, possibly the only level-headed representative of the Knysna DA, concurred by saying, in reference to the sale process, that surely “we should have gotten past this point by now.”
Michelle Wasserman (DA), as Speaker, had no option but to withdraw the item. They will undoubtedly push it through next time but it won’t have been accounted for in the budget. If the seller so wanted, they could even adjust the selling price as the final approval date is March 3rd i.e. before there’s another Council meeting.
In Part 2, ‘Knysna DA Screws Up Budget – The Adjustments’, i relate how the library costs have gone up by half a million because of extra ‘professional fees’, R17 million that has to be spent in the next 4 months (or it will be lost), that consumers are buying less electricity and more. The opposition walked out and refused to vote on this one. I’ll tell you why they were right to do so.