Special Council Meeting outcome

The outcome of today’s Special Council Meeting was a provisional win for Ratepayers and for the town.

Recall from our last two posts that Municipal Manager Chetty and Mayor Bouw-Spies wanted Council to approve and adopt in principle the proposed draft Microstructure that provided for at least 88 new jobs at an additional cost of R25 million, whilst the administrative officials providing support for our top politicians were scheduled to increase from 2 to 7, and staff in the municipal manager’s office were going to increase from 23 to 37, thereby costing ratepayers another R3.8 million per annum.

Your Ratepayers Committee sent a letter to all councillors late last night objecting to the proposal in the strongest possible terms. The ANC councillors read the letter and, realising that these additional costs were sheer lunacy, objected vociferously at the meeting. (Well done, ANC!). They were joined by a few DA Councillors who also saw the folly of the proposal, with the result that the plan to approve and adopt the proposed Microstructure foundered, and the final resolution merely stated that the organisational structure would be “referred for consultation.”

The discussion around the item made it clear that the term “organisational structure” was being used to include both the Microstructure, and the Macrostructure that was hastily adopted several weeks ago behind closed doors, after Ratepayers had been locked out of the building. So, nothing was approved, and both the Microstructure and the Macrostructure are now set to go through the consultation process.

After the meeting, your KRA chairman met with the Speaker to ensure that Ratepayers would have an opportunity to participate in the consultation process as early as possible, to avoid being faced with a fait accompli at a later date. So now, we have a genuine opportunity to help shape the proposal to match the town’s actual needs, and strive to prevent increases in headcount or related costs. It’s going to be a hard fight, but we will push for no increase in headcount, but instead, a reduction to more affordable levels.

You will find below a copy of the letter we sent the councillors:

KNYSNA RATEPAYERS’ ASSOCIATION
PO Box 2475, Knysna, 6570
Text and Whatsapp: 083 394 0291

Dear Councillors,

The Knysna Ratepayers Association wishes to register its categorical rejection of the proposed new “Micro Structure” for Knysna Municipality, which is scheduled for approval “in principle” at the Special Council Meeting on Wednesday, 25 April 2018.

Our objections are both substantive and procedural. Since our procedural objection is that the proposed adoption will violate the law, we will begin with procedure.

Both the MFMA and the Systems Act provide that the kind of radical restructuring envisaged by the proposed Micro Structure undergo a mandatory public participation process.

Knysna municipality is currently engaged in a ward-by-ward public participation process on the draft budget and IDP review. However, neither the draft budget nor the IDP reflect the proposed Micro Structure, even though that structure is to be implemented in this budget year.

Public participation is accordingly focused on a fictitious budget, and as there has been no separate public participation process for the proposed Micro Structure, the adoption of the Micro Structure will violate the public participation requirements of both the Systems Act and the MFMA.

In addition, the proposed Micro Structure entails far-reaching changes affecting existing employees. Some positions are to be eliminated, whilst others are to be devalued. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Labour Relations Act lay down strict requirements for such changes, none of which, to our knowledge, have been complied with. Adoption of the Micro Structure will almost certainly result in the violation of one or both acts.

These violations of applicable law are reason enough to scuttle the proposal.

Turning now to the substance of the proposed Micro Structure: it is proposed that permanent staff be increased by 88 posts, at an estimated additional cost of R25 million per annum.

In a town that is already suffering from a collapsing infrastructure, this is sheer lunacy. How many decaying pipes could be replaced for R25 million? How many kilometres of potholed roads could be resurfaced?

And the figure of R25 million seems far too low in any event. The proposed staff increase of 88 posts was obtained by subtracting the current total of funded and unfunded posts (approximately 970) from the proposed new total of 1058 posts. This is comparing apples and oranges, however. Surely, the plan is not to deliberately create unfunded posts. To determine the total additional cost, the current number of funded posts should be subtracted from the new proposed total of 1058. There are approximately 755 funded posts at this time. As a result, the actual increase will be 303 posts, not 88. And the cost of an additional 303 employees will be far, far more than R25 million. Even assuming that an increase of 88 posts would cost only R25 million, an increase of 303 posts would cost approximately 86 million. Where is Knysna going to find an additional R86 million per annum to spend on salaries?

In addition, with the creation of the “Office of Political Office Bearers,” the proposed Micro Structure envisages an unprecedented increase in administrative support officials for our top politicians, from the current two, to seven. Our politicians have gotten along nicely with at first one, and then two, administrative support officials for the past eleven years. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support the proposition that they need an additional five, three of whom will work exclusively for the Mayor.

Our politicians need to start delivering the capital infrastructure projects this town so badly needs, and must not even consider spending our hard-earned tax rand on salaries for new posts whose occupants will spend their time on “Special Projects” and “Communication and Stakeholder Engagement.” Knysna’s problems will not be solved by public relations. Accession to power often begets self-indulgence, but cash-strapped ratepayers are incensed when their hard-earned tax rand are squandered on non-essentials, whilst service delivery continues to be conspicuous by its absence.

Finally, the proposed Micro Structure will increase staff in the Municipal Manager’s Office from 23 to 37, for a net increase of 14, at an additional cost of R3,8 million per annum. Additional supernumeraries are the last thing our already bloated staff needs at this point. Instead, Knysna needs a competent skills assessment process to cut away fat and match skills to requirements, followed by a reduction in the overall headcount to bring municipal rates down to levels that can be tolerated by our large population of pensioners on fixed incomes who are increasingly unable to make ends meet every month.

For all these reasons, we categorically reject the proposed Micro Structure, and ask that it be removed from tomorrow’s agenda.

Regards,

The Committee