Another central figure in the Knysna Tourism controversy has always been Knysna’s Municipal Manager. Lauren Waring would not assist the public protector by saying what can only amount to a serious distortion of the truth in practice:
“We advise that Knysna Tourism is not an entity of the Knysna Municipality nor do we have majority control or shareholding within Knysna Tourism. The Knysna Municipality only provides an annual grant to Knysna Tourism and the relationship between the two parties is regulated by a service level agreement… it should be noted that Knysna Tourism is not a government sector department or entity.”
The George Public Protector, Bruce Lucian Justin Wessels then dropped the case, quoting this as the reason. Was there political interference, the same way the Eden District’s (in charge of the Garden Route and the Klein Karoo) corruption hotline and the DA’s corruption hotline never responded to my submissions? The question must be asked because the Public Protector’s reaction didn’t add up because:
- Wessel’s initially told me that he would never drop the case because all government grants, no matter who they are given to, must have the same rules applied to them as if they are still the governments. After all, it is taxpayers’ money supposedly being spent to further the taxpayer.
- Wessel’s later told me that he was under pressure from his bosses to drop the case but that he’d stood up for it on the merit that all taxpayer’s money must be accounted for.
- Initially, Lauren Waring never responded but Knysna Tourism did, providing some information (that they’d refused to give me, even when I was a Tourism member). Wessel’s instructed me to clarify what was still needed. He then, if I recall correctly, contacted Lauren Waring again which is what prompted the response above.
- I then received a letter from his office stating that after discussion with his superiors, they were dropping the case because Lauren Waring had stated that the Knysna Municipality was not the main shareholder in Knysna Tourism.
His change in attitude made no sense. Even more non-sensical was that the Knysna Municipality was saying that legally they did not have to account for the 14 grants they had given Knysna Tourism since the year 2000, the latest (last month) being R4million. There is no taxpayer that would agree to that.
Lauren Waring chose to exclude these very important facts:
- She is on the Board of Knysna Tourism.
- Grant Easton, the Director of Finance for Knysna Municipality, is on the Board’s sub-committee for Finance.
- Two politicians from Knysna Municipality are on the Board and, for a long while, that number was three. This initially included Mayor Georlene Wolmarans. For the longest part, it was Deputy Mayor Esme Edge (DA), Speaker Michelle Wasserman (DA) and Stephen de Vries (ANC Chief Whip).
- The R4million grant Knysna Tourism receives is Knysna Municipality’s only grant. It is also the bulk of the organisation’s funding. This is 100% clear from looking at an overview of their financial reports. Additionally, Stephen de Vries, stated that this was so at the latest Council meeting.
- Despite being bankrupt and having found Shaun van Eck guilty on 4 charges of gross misconduct, the Knysna Tourism Board never pressed charges and instead paid van Eck R270 000. It’s unlikely that that decision could have been made without agreement by Grant Easton and the subsequent approval by Lauren Waring, the most important purse strings in the equation. To compound their poor action, they then advanced Tourism another R500 000 of taxpayer’s money.
Thus the Municipality gave no info to the Public Protector and ensured their position in the cover-up of what really happened at Knysna Tourism.
And then Lauren Waring and a politician sat with Nan Raturat (a Board member through the whole issue) on a selection committee and chose Greg Vogt, the Chairman of the Board, and the person with the most conflict, as the new CEO of Knysna Tourism.
The plot thickens in ‘Tourism Truth #3: The Cover-Up’ which will appear either later today or tomorrow morning.
It is so IMPORTANT that this issue be spread throughout our town, discussed and the matter questioned. PLEASE SHARE THIS POST and it’s follow-ups. Those of you who are Knysna Tourism members, please ensure that you email your queries (rather than verbal, so that there’s a track record) to Knysna Municipality and Nan Raturat, the Chairperson of the Knysna Tourism Board. When addressing the latter, be clear that she responds ( not Greg Vogt).