Cllr called out of sick bed for covert conclusion to Muni macro structure

COUNCILLOR CALLED OUT OF CONVALESCENCE FOR COVERT CLOSED-DOOR CONCLUSION OF MUNICIPAL MACRO-STRUCTURE

The Special Council Meeting of 23 March included a number of important and controversial items, but none as controversial as the item involving the ORGANISATIONAL REVIEW AND DESIGN PROJECT. This item led to an ANC walkout, a DA Councillor being hauled out of his sick bed and the two labour unions threatening industrial action.

For that reason, we shall confine our report to this item.

The item included the Key Findings or Status Quo Report of the consultants tasked with the organisational review process. The report included no recommendations relating to the reduction of the current directorates, but included some suggestions that certain departments may be better located in different directorates.

Despite the fact that the organisational design phase has not yet commenced, the recommendation from the Municipal Manager included the adoption of a Macro Structure that excluded the Planning and Development Department, as well a new post of Senior Manager: Strategic Services in the Office of the Municipal Manager. Whereas the Municipal Systems Act compels a municipality to have a Development and Planning Directorate, there is no legal obligation on a municipality to have a Strategic Services Directorate.

The MM requested Council’s approval to proceed with the recruitment of the new Senior Manager with immediate effect, yet he remained silent on what would happen to the Senior Manager of the Directorate he wanted Council to abolish.

The ANC Councillors were strongly opposed to the recommendations for a number of reasons. Knysna Municipality had entered into a five year contract with the Director of the Planning Directorate a year ago and the contract therefore had four years remaining. The contract included no cancellation clause in the event that the Directorate is dissolved. The Director would therefore have to be paid out at least four year’s salary, amounting to approximately R4 Million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure. In the event that the Director is offered the position to head another Directorate, the current advertising costs would amount to fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Knysna Municipality has recently advertised for three Director’s positions and regardless of where the Planning Department’s functions are located, the current advertisements would not include the unique legally mandated qualifications and experience for a Planning Director.

The consultant was asked about this and he gave the assurance that at this stage the provisional or “in principle” approval of the Macro Structure was merely a basis to work from and was not implementable until such time as the next phase had been completed, all stakeholders had been consulted and Council had approved the final proposals. He explained that this was only due to happen at the end of the next phase. Incumbents in redundant positions would be offered similar positions in the organisation, if such positions were available, alternatively they would be made a fair offer of termination.

Councillor Myers warned that adopting the proposed resolutions would be illegal and left the meeting after the Speaker refused him an opportunity to put all his questions to the consultant.

Contrary to the assurances that had been provided by the consultant moments earlier, the Speaker thereafter asked the council to approve the recommendations that allowed for immediate implementation of the new Macro Structure. The ANC at this stage requested an opportunity to caucus and came back to advise the Speaker that they were leaving as they were not prepared to be part of this unlawful process. Councillor Salaze also walked out.

At this stage the meeting adjourned until 2 pm for Councillor Willemse, who was recuperating after being admitted to hospital the night before, to be brought to council to achieve a quorum.
When members of the public, who were locked out of the building during the adjournment, returned to attend the resumption of the meeting at 2 pm, they learnt that the DA had completed the meeting behind closed doors.
Apparently the new Macro Structure was adopted and it was resolved that Mr. Chetty may proceed to recruit a new Senior Manager.

The KRA is extremely concerned with the conduct that led to this decision and the potential for incurring significant fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The municipality currently has only two Directors, of which one heads a Directorate that has now been discontinued. Last week the municipality advertised to fill the vacancies in three Directorates. These advertisements do not cater for the new Macro Structure and will in all probability result in additional fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The vital position of Director Corporate Services has been vacant for more than a year, due to legal irregularities in two of the previous recruitment attempts. The recruitment process for the Community Services Director has also been abandoned due to lack of compliance with regulations.

The KRA will do everything in its power to ensure that any fruitless and wasteful expenditure, incurred as a result of the dissolution of a Directorate, a year after a five-year contract was entered into with the Director, is recovered from the responsible politicians and/or officials.

NOTE: Upon receipt of the Supplementary Agenda last week the KRA was extremely concerned about the risk of significant fruitless and wasteful expenditure being incurred. In order to protect ratepayers’ interests the KRA requested an opportunity to address Council on this item at the meeting. The request was refused by the Speaker, as she had not received it at least six days notice prior to the meeting. Considering that the item was only placed on the agenda three days before the meeting it was impossible for us to deliver our request earlier and we are therefore requesting a meeting with the Speaker to resolve this untenable situation.

Cllr Meyrs to face disciplinary hearing

The matter of the Code of Conduct disciplinary proceeding of Ward 10 Councillor Peter Myers is on page 152 of the agenda for this Friday’s Special Council Meeting (23 March 2018). The recommendation of the Speaker is that the “allegations of breach of the Code of Conduct for Councillors levelled against Cllr Peter Myers be referred to Council`s Disciplinary Committee to proceed with the matter as provided for in Section 14(1)(b)(i)(ii) of the Code” and that a councillor “be appointed as the Chairperson of the Discplinary (sic) Committee for the progress of the hearing mentioned in [a] above because Cllr. Myers must excuse himself from said Committee.”
Myers was appointed chairperson of the Disciplinary Committee last August, but had to recuse himself from the committee since he could not, of course, judge his own proceeding.

Once a chairperson has been appointed, the KRA will lodge a submission with him or her requesting that the proceedings be open to the public. We believe that allegations of misconduct by councillors is too important a matter to be judged in secret. His hearing is to be preceded by the disciplinary hearing of Councillor Velile Waxa, reported by us on this page last Friday.
Councillor Myers is a DA Councillor.

We assume that a councillor will be appointed as chairperson of the disciplinary committee at this Friday’s meeting.

OUR OBJECTIVE

The KRA is not at this point commenting on the complaints against Councillor Myers, which are a matter of public record, or on the merits of the case. For us, the threshold issue is transparency: these proceedings must be open to the public so that the public can witness how justice is administered by the Disciplinary Committee, and form their own opinion.

THREE COMPLAINTS
According to the agenda of the Special Council Meeting to be held on 23 March 2018:
“The following complaints against Cllr Myers was lodged to (sic) the Speaker`s office.
COMPLAINT 1
It is alleged that Cllr Myers, disclosed privileged and confidential information which he was in possession of relating to the long list of applicants for the positions of Director Community Services and Director: Corporate Services.
The complainant alleges that Cllr Myers through his actions, compromised the recruitment and selection process and breached Sections 2 and 10 of the Code of Conduct for Councillors.
COMPLAINT 2
Second complaint relates to statements made by Cllr Myers during an ordinary meeting of Council 2017.
The complainant allege that Cllr Myers abused his position in the Council to create division and strife thus breaching Section 2 of the Code of Conduct for Councillors.
COMPLAINT 3
The complaint relates to statements made and the general conduct of Cllr Myers during an ordinary meeting of Council held on the 2017.
Councillor Myers displayed conduct unbecoming of a public representative and councillor serving the town of Knysna.
The complainant alleges that the councillor breached section 2 of the Code of Conduct for Councillors relating to the general conduct of Councillors.
The Speaker has made a determination, that on reasonable suspicion, she is of the opinion that a provision of this Code has been breached.
The office of the Speaker provided Cllr Myers with a reasonable opportunity to reply in writing to the alleged breach. Cllr Myers provided detailed responses to the allegations.”
Friday’s Special Council Meeting is open to the public, and all are urged to attend. The meeting begins at 9 am, in Council Chambers, Clyde Street. The agenda can be downloaded here:
http://www.knysna.gov.za/…/…/2014/10/Spec_Age_23_Marc_18.pdf

Cllr Waxa to face disciplinary proceedings

COUNCILLOR WAXA WILL SOON FACE DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

The disciplinary proceeding against Ward 4 Councillor Velile Waxa should begin within the next few weeks. A disciplinary committee chairperson will normally be appointed at the Special Council Meeting scheduled for 23 March 2018, following which Waxa’s disciplinary hearing will be scheduled. Once a chairperson has been appointed, the KRA will lodge a submission with him or her requesting that the proceedings be open to the public. We believe that alleged misconduct by councillors is too important a matter to be judged in secret. Note that Councillor Waxa is neither DA nor ANC, but is an Independent.

OUR OBJECTIVE

The KRA is not at this point commenting on the charges against Councillor Waxa, which are a matter of public record, or on the merits of the case. For us, the threshold issue is transparency: these proceedings must be open to the public so that the public can witness how justice is administered by the Disciplinary Committee, and form their own opinion. This is particularly important in light of Waxa’s reported status with regard to the DA (see below).

ALLEGATIONS

According to the agenda of the Special Council Meeting held on 30 March 2017, it is alleged that:

“Cllr Waxa breached the Code of Conduct for Councillors and Section 118 of the MFMA in that on or about the 6th of December 2016, Cllr Waxa interfered in the procurement processes of the Knysna Municipality by appointing a contractor to effect certain building and clearing works, following a fire in the area known as Love Corner, White Location. It is alleged that Clr Waxa of his own accord and without any consultation or assistance of the administration entered into an agreement with the contractor appointed by him with regards to price and scope of work.

It is further alleged that Cllr Waxa interfered in the management or administration of the Integrated Human Settlements department, without being mandated by the Municipal Council to do so. It is further also alleged that Cllr Waxa gave or purported to give instruction to officials from the Integrated Human Settlements in relation to the building of emergency housing following the Love Corner fire, without being authorised to do so by Council and encouraged or participated in conduct which could cause or result in maladministration in Council.

A separate complaint was levelled against Cllr Waxa wherein the complainant alleged that Cllr Waxa breached Section 2 of the Code of Conduct for Councillors. It is alleged that Cllr Waxa on or about the 10th of December 2016 and at Templeman Square was involved in an incident with a member of the public, whereby Cllr Waxa threatened the said member of the public and made racist remarks aimed at the said member of the public.

It is further alleged that Cllr Waxa incited violence by encouraging other stall owners at Templeman Square, to threaten the member of the public. It is further alleged that Cllr Waxa through his actions, intimidated the member of the public to such an extent that she feared that herself and her minor children would be physically harmed.”

The alleged misconduct occurred over a year ago. That is a very long time, especially in light of the seriousness of the charges.

According to reliable sources, Councillor Waxa was wooed by Knysna Mayor Eleanor Bouw-Spies to give her the additional vote she needed to remove Councillor Peter Myers as deputy mayor last October. Waxa appears to be in a de facto coalition with the ruling DA, although no coalition agreement has been disclosed at this time.

Prime polluter formally commits to prohibiting pollution

PRIME POLLUTER FORMALLY COMMITS TO PROHIBITING POLLUTION

The first sentence of the municipality’s published comment on our article “The Knysna Estuary can still be saved…” is nonsensical on its face.

On page 2 of the 7 March 2018 Sedgefield Edge, the municipal spokesperson says:

“The Knysna Municipality remains committed to prohibit any pollution of its most important natural asset, the Knysna lagoon.”

But Knysna Municipality itself is the prime polluter of the Knysna lagoon, and has been for over a decade! The Waste Water Treatment Works is far and away the leading source of pollution of the Knysna Estuary. And the second leading source– the Bongani Catchment– is under the municipality’s jurisdiction and control. So what does it mean for the prime polluter to reassure ratepayers that it “remains committed to prohibit any pollution of its most important natural asset, the Knysna Lagoon”? It means absolutely nothing. An empty statement. When is Council going to start walking the talk, instead of just talking the talk?

Report on special council meeting of 28 February 2018

The purpose of this week’s Special Council Meeting was to deal with the Adjustment Budget. The meeting started at 11 am and lasted until the early evening. Three of our KRA Committee Members attended the meeting, but by 3 pm, when the last of our members had to leave due to other commitments, the item relating to the Budget had not yet been taken up.
Earlier in the day the report of the Audit Committee on the Auditor General’s findings was presented by the Chairman, Ray Barrell. The report confirmed that Knysna Municipality had lost its clean audit.
The Audit Committee is to be congratulated on delivering a comprehensive and well-motivated report and we can only hope that the municipality implements their recommendations. Some of the issues that require urgent attention relate to procurement, such as too many deviations from the regulations and poor contract management.
Of particular concern was the lack of implementation of the Auditor General’s recommendations and the failure to recover irregular, fruitless, wasteful and unauthorised expenditure. This expenditure amounts to millions of rand, and the complete lack of consequences does not serve as a deterrent against such illegal expenditure being incurred in future.
The reason for the above may in part be due to the fact that the financial oversight committee, MPAC, is under-capacitated and has become dysfunctional. This is not a new issue and hopefully the Council will finally do something about giving MPAC capacity, and teeth.
The most troubling finding by the Audit Committee was the lack of controls in the municipality, and the alarming failure to implement and comply with existing controls. The Committee highlighted controls relating to performance, procurement, contract management and consequence management, and flagged a failure of leadership as the reason for these serious shortcomings.
Another alarming issue is the inability of the municipality to fill key management positions. The Director of Corporate Services position has been vacant for more than a year and the Community Services Director’s position has been vacant for almost six months. There have been three unsuccessful attempts to fill these positions and whereas suitable candidates were identified, the processes have all been abandoned due to irregularities (and not to the candidates’ qualifications).
To aggravate matters, the Municipality is running out of qualified and willing candidates to act in these vital positions.
The Acting Director Corporate Services, Melony Paulsen resigned unexpectedly for reasons the Municipal Manager is not willing to share with the Councillors or the public, and the highly experienced Mr. Matteus has indicated that he is not willing to act in that position either.
So, all in all, an Audit Committee report that raises serious concerns about the lack of controls, accountability and consequences management throughout municipal government. In addition, although the disposition of these matters is somewhat unclear, it appears that no one was appointed at the meeting to fill the vacant positions of Acting Director, Community Services or Acting Director, Corporate Services.
All of these problems must be addressed as a matter of urgency, and we look forward to exploring these and other issues with the municipal manager at our meeting on 22 March.
A summary of the adjustment budget will follow.

Email to Cllr Young

The following email was sent to Councillor Martin Young today:

“Dear Cllr Young,
Knysna Ratepayers Association Committee would like to meet with you next week at your earliest convenience.
We are happy to make the meeting early in the morning so as not to take you away from your practice.

We look forward to hearing from you soonest.

Regards
Judy Harrison
Secretary – Knysna Ratepayers Association”

We would like to exchange views with Councillor Young on the challenges facing Knysna, what Council and the Administration plan to do about them, and our respective roles.