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.