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.