Knysna Creative Heads (KCH), the company with local developer links, was controversially awarded the tender to prepare the ISDF framework that will decide the future of Knysna. Municipal Manager Grant Easton wants the politicians to spend more money, outside of the tender winners, on public participation.
That’s money up and beyond the tender agreement.
That’s money despite local and provincial government having insufficiently addressed the public outcry that public participation, over the past two years, was a sham, government and big business seemingly intent on doing what they want no matter strong objections and presentations.
That’s more money supposedly for the future of Knysna’s people but without them feeling part of the process.
The divide in opinion between what has happened was emphasised at the November Mayoral Committee Meeting when Mike Maughan-Brown (Director Planning & Development), in the agenda, stated that “…during the first phase of the project, an extremely comprehensive community consultation process was implemented.”
Objectors, including this author, disagree.
Easton argued on the basis of Maughan-Brown’s report which further read that: “In terms of the initial programme for the project it was intended that the project should be completed by the end of June 2014. Because of the delay in the inception of the project it was accepted that the process would run until December 2014. For various reasons the process has taken much longer than was expected. Some of these reasons were because of technical difficulties experienced by the project team. However, the delay was also attributable to a substantial extent to the fact that some information that was critical to the process was only available in October 2015 from Technical Services. Council decisions relating to the status of the project also contributed to delays. It is now expected that the final draft of the plan will be handed to the municipality early in December 2015 for public participation early in 2016.”
Peter Myers (DA) pointed out that public participation was built into the tender and that, “Reasons for delay are not due to public participation… so why are there extra costs?”
Easton said that because the project has taken much longer, costs have changed. “I do not know what those costs will be. We will come back to you with those.”
Surely you’ve got a draft of that,” Myers responded. “Surely you can give this committee an indication???”
Easton couldn’t answer.
So that the Council better understood what they were dealing with, he was directed to return with it to the Ordinary Council Meeting on December 10, the final gathering for 2015.
At that council meeting, he stated R579 000 but emphasised that that was not a final figure.
The politicians were clearly even more unprepared when they were informed that the ISDF Steering Committee had been sent the ISDF draft, which would affect the town for an estimated 30 years, that morning. In the public gallery, there were suspicious rumblings as to the awkward timing with the year ending. This was compounded when Eston sarcasically added, “It’s a massive document. I wish them well over Christmas and New Year.”
When Easton was asked who the ISDF Steering Committee was, he was unable to answer.
Mayor Georlene Wolmarans was also unable to identify the Steering Committee for the ISDF. Stephen de Vries, the ANC Chief Whip, reckoned that the Mayor hadn’t been to any of the meetings if she didn’t know.
Inadvertently, De Vries was adding ammunition to the protestor’s feeling that it was big business versus the public and that the DA wasn’t addressing the public’s needs.
Regards the request for more money, De Vries said that, “We, as the ANC, don’t agree that there should be any additional costs… that was part of the scope originally given to the tender winner. We object that any additional costs be paid by Knysna Municipality. The ANC raised, from the beginning, that there may be a conflict of interest with the service provider being a property developer.”
From a different standpoint, the DA’s Peter Myers noticed that on the new agenda, “Points A and B refer to reports that haven’t been submitted,” so how could the Council make an educated vote?
Stephen de Vries (ANC Chief Whip) threw responsibility onto Wolmarans with, “This is a recommendation from the Executive Mayor.”
She responded with, “I am not on the steering committee.”
Mthobeli Dyanti (ANC): “You accept this report despite you supposed to being the oversight over the steering committee you don’t know. If you don’t know about it yet, then why are you bringing it in front of us. Don’t play with our people here.”
Easton said that the committee included the Council [of politicians present], thus disagreeing with Wolmarans.
There were requests for an on-the-spot verbal report. Dyanti objected: “We’re sick and tired of verbal reports.”
He never had to mention that verbal reports don’t carry hard copy records, that meetings minutes often ignore important points and audio recordings become corrupted. At the previous meeting, the business plan for tourism was presented verbally by Knysna Tourism, a bizarre fact considering Knysna is a tourism based economy. Without detailed hard copies (available to the public), critics fear less accountability of those in public service.
Mike Maughan-Brown: “I don’t have the names of the Steering Committee.” He went on to say that oversight involves “inter-governmental committee… and the Council”.
Eleonor Bouw-Spies (Speaker/DA): “I don’t know if Councillor Myers is aware that he’s supposed to be on that committee.”
Myers, one of the most relevant politicians to the discussion, owing to him being the Chairperson of Governance and Economic Development, shook his head, seemingly agreeing that he did not or that he was unhappy with the process.
Myers switched the conversation, querying details of the motion requested”: “Is B referring to the past public participation to come or the public participation to come?”
“To come,” said Easton but went on to add that a report will be given for the public participation done, and a proposal given for the public participation to come. This would happen next year February, at a Section 80 meeting.
The Council missed the ball then when none queried why he hadn’t presented a report on the public participation done, as he was tasked to have done for the Mayor Committee Meeting held the previous month.
De Vries (ANC Chief Whip) then pointed out that the ISDF report would only, then, be before Council in March. “What is the time frame for this process to be completed?”
Before he was answered, Myers expressed his concern, requesting a special council meeting in January “because decisions need to be made.”
Bouw-Spies disagreed, saying it was unnecessary as an Ordinary Council meeting was set for Jan 28 2016. No one pointed out that several weeks would be lost because of that.
Bouw Spies stated that the same ISDF consultants (CMAI) must finish the job.
“I cannot agree,”said Myers, “because it needs to be determined if the current consultants are competent and what the cost implications are.”
Bouw-Spies: “This report suggests that due to public perception, another consultant must be appointed to continue the public participation process.” Which is what De Vries, her opposition, had said at the meeting previous Mayoral meeting.
Again, no one mentioned the fact that this author will be presenting a complaint against the ISDF tender award to Parliament (date moved to January 27 2015). This despite the ANC and DA having been presented a copy of my invite and my latest article. This despite Municipal Manager Grant Easton, Mayor Wolmarans,
De Vries proposed staying with same consultant company but with no extra fees being paid.
Peter Myers proposed that there must first be a complete report before council.
A catch-22 for Knysna either way.
ANC proposal lost. DA proposal won.
Two-and-a-half years and R3-million on the ISDF later, Knysna remains confused as to it’s future.
PS: This issue appeared on the Cape Times front page and the SABC’s FB today.