Today’s special council meeting – what’s up?

So, what is on the agenda for today’s Special Council meeting (11 am, Council Chambers)?
Let’s begin our review with the need to appoint acting and, soon, permanent directors for three key municipal departments.
Council has not done a very good job finding permanent directors for the Community Services and the Corporate Services departments. In fact, they haven’t even been able to meet their deadline for reappointing acting directors. The appointment of Community Services Acting Director Richard Mayer has already expired. Which raises the interesting question: what is the legal status of the decisions he has taken since then? Then, there is the need to appoint an Acting Corporate Services Director to replace Melony Paulsen. At least one prospective candidate has refused the appointment. It seems that nobody wants the job. Why is that? And then, of course, the process of appointing permanent directors for both departments must be completed. What has been done so far, and how much longer must these departments operate under acting directors? Finally, there is the issue of finding someone to replace Technical Services Director Michael Rhode, whose contract will soon expire. Will a replacement be chosen in time, or will Council soon have to appoint an acting director for that department as well? Our Administration has been hobbled by the absence of permanent directors for some time now, just as it was hamstrung in the past financial year by a string of short-lived appointments to the position of acting municipal manager following Grant Easton’s resignation in the middle of his disciplinary proceeding. Knysna faces a number of serious challenges, and permanent directors need to be in the saddle, and working together, to meet those challenges.
Next, let’s take a look at the report of the Audit Committee, which is at the top of the agenda. This year, the municipality did not achieve a clean audit, but a “financially unqualified audit”. We expect that the Audit Committee’s chairman will explain the difference during his presentation this morning.
What are the highlights of the Audit Committee’s findings, as set out in their report?
The report points out that the AG found that the audit action plan arising out of his audit report last year had not been adequately monitored by leadership and management. Problems that had been identified in the areas of predetermined objectives, procurement, contract management and financial reporting were not followed up on. We have pointed out the serious problems with the procurement process, and the lack of contract management, in previous posts, and in the local press. There is no real management of outside contractors appointed by the municipality to carry out specific projects. This leads to spectacular failures.
The Audit Committee then goes on to point out their surprise at the AG’s failure to make material findings on non-compliance in the areas of procurement, and consequence management (to be continued).

The Knysna estuary can still be saved

Measured in terms of biodiversity, the Knysna estuary is the most important estuary in South Africa. As a recreational resource, it is also the core of our tourist industry, which drives our local economy.
But estuarine health has been badly neglected for many years.
Our poorly maintained, polluting wastewater treatment works (“WWTW”) does not have a valid discharge permit and has regularly exceeded special standards for chlorine, conductivity, chemical oxygen demand and ammonia. The Department of Water and Sanitation and the Department of Environmental Affairs are expected to issue directives, due to long-standing non-compliance. In addition, the current design of the WWTW fails to provide for the removal of two major pollutants: nitrogen and phosphorus.
The WWTW is estimated to be 30% over capacity, and the scores of illegal connections that channel stormwater into our sewage system swamp the works with an estimated 7-10 times normal influent during heavy rains, overwhelming it and causing improperly treated sewage to flow into the Ashmead Channel, which is now anoxic (dead) and may be beyond saving. People thoughtlessly flush rags and cloths, sanitary pads and tampons, disposable nappies, condoms, chip packets, and cigarette butts down their toilets, clogging the screens and the machinery in the WWTW and preventing it from processing sewage.
During exceptionally high spring tides, septic tanks located too close to the water’s edge flood and their content then seeps into the estuary as the waters recede. Bathing on an outgoing tide during these periods, and after heavy rains, is not recommended.
Solving these problems will require a multi-pronged attack: a) upgrade the WWTW to bring it into compliance and eliminate pollutants from the effluent, b) outsource WWTW maintenance and management under an appropriate service delivery agreement, c) identify and eliminate all illegal rainwater connections to the sewage system, d) educate residents about what not to flush down toilets, e) eliminate all other sources of untreated human and animal waste flowing into the estuary through the Bongani stream and the many polluted culverts that run through town, and f) fund and build a new, modular sewage plant at a location far removed from the estuary, which converts sewage to potable water, thus helping to alleviate our perennial water shortage.
The Estuary Pollution Committee, which has broad representatjon from all stakeholders, is driving efforts to achieve these goals. Thanks to the appointment of a new, highly competent environmental manager, there is now real hope that these longstanding problems can be resolved. But too much time has been wasted in the last decade. And it will take a lot of money and a sustained effort to reverse the downward spiral. As Dutch consultant Jan van der Kok pointed out in his timely report, the time for studies is over.
But at the last Council meeting, on 25 January, Council again passed the buck. The discussion of how best to stop the ongoing pollution of the estuary by the WWTW was so confused as to be barely comprehensible, and the disposition of the agenda item—referring the matter to the Technical Services Department for action—merely ratifies the woeful status quo.
This is the department that has been in charge of the WWTW throughout the period in which pollution of the estuary ran out of control. This is the department that consistently requires the intervention if outside contractors to attempt to bring the WWTW into some kind of compliance with the applicable standards, because it has never been given the skilled personnel it needs to do it itself. And the employment contract of the current Technical Services Department’s director is due to expire in only a few months’ time.
Council still does not understand how urgent this problem has become. And once again, Council has failed to assume its responsibilities as the steward of our town’s most precious natural resource, around which our entire local economy is built. How much longer will this neglect of the Knysna estuary be allowed to continue?

The Committee

Traffic Dept moving to industria?

Report on Community Services Section 80 Committee Meeting held on Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Wednesday’s meeting was very lively, with opposition councillors (essentially ANC) seeking to undermine the authority of Chairperson Shakespeare Arends (ACDP) and prolong the meeting at every opportunity. This started during the adoption of the minutes of the previous meeting, and continued through every agenda item, with the result that the meeting lasted seven hours in all.
Much of this time was spent with councillors querying the administration on various aspects of the department’s monthly reports, from Municipal Health and Environmental Services, Protection Services, Parks and Recreation, Fire, Youth and Sports Desks, etc.
In and amongst these reports, there were two items that generated more extensive debate. The first one concerned the upgrade to the old Vehicle Testing Station in the Industrial Area to accommodate the entire Traffic Department, which is currently based in town, including the payment facility for vehicle and drivers licences, Learners Licence classes, Eye Testing facilities, etc as well as offices for both Traffic and Law Enforcement. The original intention was to alter sections of the Finance building to accommodate the cashier function and R3.5million was included in the 2017/2018 budget for this, but these alterations have not proceeded and the Community Services Department realised that they would have to move the functions to the Industrial Area, requiring R6million of additional funding.
This item was debated at the Council meeting on 25 January 2018 and Council requested that a report on the new offices at the Testing Station be submitted to the next Community Services Section 80 meeting with regards to the increase in costs, approval of building plans, public participation process and the consolidation of Municipal buildings. Hence the item on the agenda.
Cllr Molosi really opened up the debate when he said that, although he had supported the upgrade of the Vehicle Testing Station during the Council meeting, he had had time to reflect on the impact of this move on the town’s ordinary citizens. It would not only add a significant amount of time to acquiring a licence, etc (and he was mindful of the traffic congestion past the Provincial Hospital at peak times) but it would also not be possible for most working people to do this in their lunchtime for the above reason, and after work would not be feasible as the Municipality’s business hours ended at 4.30pm. He was supported in this by other councillors, who thought that the whole proposal needed to be reviewed. Another point made was that if the move was to free up office space, who was the freed-up space going to be for? The organisational chart, which is long overdue, would define the new structure and, therefore, provide guidance on how many offices were required. Also, it was pointed out that the public participation process was planned to take place during the building process, and surely this was putting the cart before the horse.
In order to try and push this through Chairperson Arends suggested that the item should go forward to the Mayoral Committee, but that his Section 80 Committee should meet before then to agree on a recommendation (at the moment this is scheduled on the municipal calendar for the 1st March, so this does not leave much time to agree on a recommendation).
The second item was the report back on Ward-based Projects, the purpose of which was to clean and undertake minor maintanance work in the Wards. Experience has shown that many contractors were struggling with the compiling of attendance registers, pay slips, health and safety and the submission of monthly reports. Problems had arisen in Wards, 1, 3, 7, 9 and 11. Much discussion took place between the ward councillors and the administration and it was agreed that some contractors must spend more time in their wards and the municipality need to closely monitor their performance.
We urge ratepayers and residents to contact their ward councillors if they wish to make their views known on any of the above issues. If you do not know who your ward councillor is, click here: http://www.knysna.gov.za/town-government/council/council/
Councillors’ email addresses are their first initial followed by their surname, followed by knysna.gov.za. For example: Ward 2 Councillor Cathy Weideman’s email address is cweideman@knysna.gov.za. Ward 9’s Mark Willemse is mwillemse@knysna.gov.za. Ward 5’s (Mayor) Eleanor Bouw-Spies is ebouw@knysna.gov.za, etc.
Section 80 meetings are held in Council Chambers, in the municipal building on Clyde Street, i.e. (the building that often has Law Enforcement Jukes parked outside). They start at 9:00 a.m. They are only held every two months, so the next Community Services Section 80 meeting will be in April. We will post the date as the time draws near, since these dates have recently had a tendency to change shortly before the meeting is held. Agenda for Section 80 Committee meetings may be downloaded at:
http://www.knysna.gov.za/…/council-ag…/portfolio-committees/
Agendas for the following two upcoming meetings are already available for download. Both meetings are scheduled for this coming week.
23/02/2018 Technical Services Committee (24 MB)
http://www.knysna.gov.za/…/uploa…/2016/09/Age_23_Feb_18..pdf
19/02/2018 Planning & Integrated Human Settlements Committee (49 MB)
http://www.knysna.gov.za/…/uplo…/2016/09/Age_-19_Feb_18..pdf
The continuation of the Finance and Governance Section 80 is scheduled for the following week, on Monday 26 February 2018.
If you have the time, we urge you to download the available agendas and attend the meetings.

Democracy works best when citizens participate.

Kind regards,

The KRA Committee

Report on Finance and Governance Section 80 Committee Meeting

Report on Finance and Governance Section 80 Committee Meeting of Thursday, 8 February 2018

Yesterday’s Finance and Governance committee meeting at times resembled a mini SONA and Cllr Weideman had her hands full trying to maintain order in the face of numerous interruptions by irate councillors.
Councillors were particularly incensed that the Municipal Manager, Mr. Chetty, had not submitted reports that had been requested by councillors at previous meetings.
One report, which was glaring in its absence, related to details of public monies that had been spent on a private legal matter between the Mayor, the Speaker and blogger Mike Hampton.
The Manager Legal Services, Melony Paulsen had complied with the instruction and had submitted a report on the matter, but Mr. Chetty advised the committee that he had held back the report as he was not satisfied that the facts were correct and wished to consult SALGA, thereby calling into question Ms. Paulsen’s competence. Mr. Chetty’s explanation was extremely sparse on detail and not particularly convincing. The facts should have been easy to establish and the reference to SALGA made no sense. Cllr Weideman was even less convincing as to why she did not insist on the report. Ratepayers present were therefore left to speculate as to the real reason for withholding this information from the committee and the public.
Councillor Skosana complained that they were not being provided with vital information by the Administration and that they often had to find out what was happening at the municipality on Facebook! (Presumably a reference, at least in part, to this Facebook page).
The other item of interest related to the notifications the municipality had received that legal action may be instituted in an amount in excess of R488 000 000 as a result of damages sustained in the fires of June 2017. Cllr Myers requested Mr. Chetty to treat the matter as extremely serious, due to the risk to the municipality and requested Mr. Chetty and the Mayor to refrain from ill-advised press statements and news conferences as had happened in the past. Both Councillors van Aswegen and Myers complained that the names of fire victims should not have been included in the Agenda.

Finance & Governance Section 80 Committee meeting 8 Feb 2018

Tomorrow, Thursday 8th February at 9am, the finance and governance section 80 committee meeting will be held in council chambers, Clyde Street. The agenda can be downloaded by clicking on the following links.
http://www.knysna.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Age-8-Feb-18-Part-1.pdf
http://www.knysna.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Age-8-Feb-18-Part-2.pdf
http://www.knysna.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Age-8-Feb-18-Part-3.pdf
http://www.knysna.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Suppl-8-Feb-18.pdf

Finance and Governance section 80 on 8 Feb 2018

Tomorrow, Thursday 8th February at 9am, the Finance and Governance section 80 committee meeting will be held in Council Chambers, Clyde Street. The agenda, which is in four parts, can be downloaded by clicking on the following links.
http://www.knysna.gov.za/…/…/2016/09/Age-8-Feb-18-Part-1.pdf
http://www.knysna.gov.za/…/…/2016/09/Age-8-Feb-18-Part-2.pdf
http://www.knysna.gov.za/…/…/2016/09/Age-8-Feb-18-Part-3.pdf
http://www.knysna.gov.za/…/uploa…/2016/09/Suppl-8-Feb-18.pdf

Items of particular interest to Knysna residents and ratepayers may include item 6.6 on claims against Eden District Municipality and Knysna Municipality in connection with the fires of 7 June, and item 6.7, which is a report on the review of the Rates By-law.

Desalination options

Fully local CT company GrahamTek, exports desalination plants. We read about their efforts in the media some 5 months ago. The costs are estimated by them to be R100 million to set up a plant-Interesting that other desalination projects have been projected at some R400 million. The missing millions go where ?
Weekend reports indicate they now have the ear of local government. With baited breath we await more news.
Similarly, Knysna has a local desalination expert, Mr Buchanan, who has offered his expertise to the KM for months, most recently to MM Kam Chetty last Wednesday 31 January, at the Knysna Catchment Management Forum. Similarly we wait for the offer to be taken up.