The Committee continued with its consideration of two petitions, the first from the Oudtshoorn Ratepayers Association Petition, in relation to the alleged unlawful and unregulated establishment of private commercial flights training school operations within Oudtshoorn Local Municipality), and the second from Love Knysna (Mr Hampton) about alleged maladministration, fraud and financial irregularities taking place at Knysna Local Municipality. The Department of Transport (DOT) had been asked to brief the Committee in relation to the Oudtshoorn petition, and the Executive Mayor and Municipal Manager, Knysna, spoke to the Knysna allegations.
The Department of Transport outlined the background, vision and purpose of the National Airports Development Plan, part of which involved the Oudtshoorn facility. This gave an overview of the existing network, a demand forecast, outlined some trends and the policy context. It was noted that the draft White Paper confirmed that the present airport infrastructure is an integral part of the South African transport system and contributes to the socio-economic development of the country, by facilitating domestic and international tourism and trade, although it was recognised that the airports were not currently integrated into a meaningful network so that better integrated planning was needed. The National Airports Development Plan aimed to address the gaps between the current airport network and the future desired state of airports. The ideal outcomes of the Airport Network were described, with emphasis not only on capacity, but also integration into the overall transport network, finding a balance between the needs of airport users and contributing to socio-economic development, complying with spatial development and land use planning and comply with all environmental, safety and security regulations. The Department of Transport would be trying to find funding and collaborating to create networking and information sharing platforms. The Civil Aviation Authority noted that consideration would have to be given to whether it was viable for the training school to stay at its current location, and the impact of this school and the noise of aircraft had to be considered from the point of view of citizens in the town, and ostrich farmers outside, as well as whether this was compliant with regulations. The Civil Aviation Authority was not aware of concerns from other airports in a similar situation.
Members asked if there had been consultation with the community, in relation to the initial construction of the airport, and the uses to which it would be put, whether there were provincial and local by-laws, whether the airport would be good for the economic viability of the area, and what might happen without it, how it contributed to growth of jobs and social upliftment, and what direct benefit the flying school provided to the town. This would be answered in writing.
Prior to the response by the Executive Mayor, Knysna Municipality, to the petition alleging corruption and maladministration on the part of the Municipality, a Member of the Committee thought it would be appropriate for the Executive Mayor to give clarity on a recent media report in which she had criticised the Committee and her failure to attend a meeting. She apologised unreservedly for any misconceptions created about Parliament and said that she would officially contact the same newspaper and ask them to publish her apology. The Municipal Manager addressed the question of the grants made to Knysna Tourism and clarified that this was a section 21 company with its own board of directors, operating in terms of the Companies Act, that rendered services to the Municipality in view of its own expertise in tourism matters, in terms of a service level agreement, since tourism formed such an essential part of the Municipality's operations yet it had no internal expertise in this field. This had been an ongoing arrangement since 2010 and the current service level agreement ran until September 2016. Money was paid by way of a grant, but this was in line with established practice, similar to grants to other organisations, and it was fully accounted for. It transpired that the petitioner had been employed on a contractual basis to Knynsa Tourism in the past but he had been lodging complaints ever since that contract was not renewed. The Executive Mayor then addressed the allegation that there were irregularities about the appointment and contract of the Municipal Manager. She noted that his qualifications had been verified, were accredited, that he had worked in other posts in the Municipality prior to his appointment, and that his salary was in line with clear principles. Since his appointment, he had removed the previous e-mail blocks that had applied to the petitioner. He had ensured that the last two audits were clean. Members asked that the allegedly racially-motivated cartoons posted on his Facebook page by the petitioner be forwarded to the Committee, asked whether blocking of emails was in line with good customer service and wanted to clarify how many had been blocked in the past, and over what period, and discussed the nature and substance of his complaints, noting that he was very demanding and not always appreciative of the time that could be taken to attend to matters such as water leaks. The differing communication systems in the Municipality were discussed. Members were concerned when the Municipality said that it could not speak to how Knynsa Tourism had been spending the money, and felt that it would be useful for the Committee to call for written responses on those matters not answered in this meeting, from all stakeholders.
Oudtshoorn Ratepayers Association Petition against private commercial flight training schools
The Chairperson noted that this briefing would be held prior to continuing the discussions on the Oudtshoorn Ratepayers Association Petition, which had to do with the alleged unlawful and unregulated establishment of private commercial flights training school operations within Oudtshoorn Local Municipality.
Mr Johann Bierman, Acting Deputy Director-General, Department of Transport, said that the need for a national airport development plan (NDAP) for South Africa was first raised in the White Paper on National Policy on Airports and Airspace Management of 1997 and confirmed during current policy review process. The draft White Paper on National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) acknowledges that the present airport infrastructure is an integral part of the South African transport system and contributes to the socio-economic development of the country, by facilitating domestic and international tourism and trade. The NCAP also acknowledged that these airports are currently not integrated into a meaningful airport network and that an integrated planning system involving all spheres of government should be introduced.
Mr Bierman said that the NADP had been developed to address the gaps between the current airport network and the future desired state of airports. It will guide and support both overall network planning and the development of individual airports integrated within their broader spatial and transport contexts. It should be noted that operational aspects of airports (including aviation security) are dealt with through other mechanisms, including the Civil Aviation Act, Civil Aviation Regulations and Technical Standards.
Mr Bierman said that the SA Airport Network should:
- Have sufficient capacity to handle air traffic, passenger, freight, and general aviation volumes
- Be integrated into the strategic transport network, spatial development and land use planning
- Be able to balance and meet the needs of airport users
- Be financially sustainable, as far as possible
- Comply with safety, security and environmental regulations, including those around noise and emissions
- Optimise its contribution to socio-economic development and meeting government’s wider objectives, both directly and indirectly, through airport precinct development
- Be responsive to changing technologies.
Mr Bierman said that the five year implementation for individual airport planning envisaged that there should be development of airport planning technical capacity at a national, provincial and local government level that can support individual airport planning. There was ongoing development of a detailed guide to support airport development and planning within their surroundings (master planning). There would be exploration of potential mechanisms to involve the private sector in airport planning and design. The Department of Transport (DOT) would be acting jointly with relevant entities to identify the most viable approach to securing funding to support air-side safety, and security compliance of airports/ Finally there would be collaboration to create networking and information sharing platforms for airport designers and planners.
Toolkits had been developed and validated to support implementation of the NADP, as follows
- GIS airport inventory system
- Demand forecasting tool/ model
- Commercial viability assessment tool
- Greenfield airport / airport upgrade socio-economic impact assessment
- Funding model for different airport categories
The Chairperson noted that Members were not going to arrive at a determination in this meeting so asked them to confine themselves to questions seeking clarity for the moment.
Ms B Engelbrecht (Gauteng, DA) asked Mr Bierman what options there might be when trying to solve issues around the location of airports; the Oudtshoorn airport was very close to the centre of the town.
Mr Bierman said that it was a difficult one to solve, because it was not just a standard operation but rather a circuit operation. There was a diagram showing the current setting of the city. He was not sure what solutions there were at the moment to address the problem; however, there was more open terrain around the city, where he was sure there could be more of a focus.
Mr Gawie Bestbier, Executive, Civil Aviation Authority, added that there was space here to examine the relationships and standards that were to be imposed by the ratepayers and local authority. At some point it might not be viable for the training school to stay, and it may have to move it the local authority did not make new rulings in relation to the land. In Oudtshoorn, there were people and ostrich farms affected by the decision. There was mention of possibly re-locating the flying school much further away from the city, but here there were concerns about the effect on the ostrich farms. If operating inspections decide the business may be practical, the local authority will need to listen to the ratepayers and the flying school will have to decide whether it is still viable to stay in its present position.
Ms G Manolope (Northern Cape, ANC) asked whether the same kinds of complaints were being heard in Oudtshoorn in relation to licences and inspections which are done annually.
Mr Simon Segwabe, Executive, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said that the operation would have to be considered in a similar light, especially if consideration was given to the environment affecting the organisation. At this stage the Civil Aviation Authority was not aware of, nor had received notifications from any airport which was in a similar position and that offered the same services.
The Chairperson asked if there had been any form on community consultation with regard to the construction of that particular airport.
Mr Bestbier said that the Civil Aviation Authority was aware of community participation that was held within Oudtshoorn about three or four years ago.
Mr Kam Chetty, Administrator, Oudtshoorn Municipality, said that when the municipality had raised the issue of the airport to the community, seeking its participation, there was one organisation which contested the issue in particular. He pointed out that there were provincial and local by-laws to be considered, and noise regulation demanded compliance with certain noise levels. All tests that were done by the districts showed that airport complied with the noise regulations.
Mr G Michalakis (Free State, DA) asked if the airport was good for the community of Oudtshoorn and the economy of Oudtshoorn, and what could be expected if there was no airport in Oudtshoorn.
Mr Chetty said that Oudtshoorn had about 18 000 households, but of these very few were economically sustainable. Therefore, any attempt to create jobs was very crucial. Drought was affecting many families. Tourism was one sector that needed to be grown in the area in order to boost economic growth in Oudtshoorn. Therefore, the airport would be good for Oudtshoorn to boost the economy of the area and create jobs for people of Oudtshoorn. So, whatever is done eventually has to take account of the economic challenges of the area. Secondly, the municipality would have to comply with the environmental regulations to make the area sustainable. Thirdly, he accepted that the community may not be entirely happy with the levels of noise, but the school would have to ensure that it did comply with the noise regulations. Therefore, in short,the airport provided jobs, provides a number of small businesses with accommodation and a number of community organisations had formed a chamber of business to enhance economic growth of Oudtshoorn.
Ms Engelbrecht asked what direct financial benefit the flying school itself gave to the town of Oudtshoorn, and what corporate social responsibility the school had to the community.
Mr Bierman said that the DOT would forward a submission to the Committee on the question of any direct financial benefit for Oudtshoorn because the representatives present were not currently able to quantify that without documentation. In terms of corporate social responsibility, there was training that was approved in conjunction with the school and 400 jobs had been created since the opening of the airport
Love Knysna Petition (Mike Hampton): Alleged maladministration, fraud and financial irregularities at Knysna Local Municipality: Executive Mayor, Knysna response
Ms Georlene Wolmarans, Mayor of Knysna, noted that the Knysna Municipality had also received some submissions from those who had petitioned the Committee, and the Municipal Manager would respond to them. She would speak to the allegations of an illegal appointment of the Municipal Manager. However, she wanted to make reference to the files that she would submit to the Committee; although the annexures had not been e-mailed to the Committee previously, all other documents had been and she would refer to these in her address.
Mr M Mohapi (Free State, ANC) said that before listening to the Municipal Manager, he felt that it would be appropriate for the Committee to get clarity from the Executive Mayor on the serious allegations that she made about the Chairperson of this Committee and the work of this Committee, as published in a recent newspaper article, which created incorrect impressions, especially amongst the community of Knysna. He wanted her to speak to why she wrote that article and what informed it. The Committee would have to avoid getting into a situation where wrong impressions were being created about Parliament. He cautioned that by these statements the Executive Mayor was undermining this Committee, and the institution of Parliament.
The Executive Mayor apologised to the Chairperson and the Committee if she had in any way offended the Committee with that article.
Ms T Mokwele (EFF, North West) said that the Committee could not take this serious matter lightly lest it create a precedent whereby the Committee would not be taken seriously.
Ms Monopole said that the integrity of the Committee was at stake. The Executive Mayor must make a written apology via the same media in which the original article had been published.
The Chairperson said that the statement made in that article did not sit well with the Committee, and had been offensive to various Members. In that article, the Executive Mayor had said that she had declined to attend a meeting because she considered that to do so would effectively be legitimising the petition. He too requested that she retract her statements in the same media.
The Executive Mayor apologised and promised that she would go and make sure that a written apology was made to the media before the end of the week. She would also send the copy of the written apology to the Chairperson and the Committee.
Mr Grant Easton, Municipal Manager, Knysna Municipality responded to the allegations of maladministration and corruption in Knysna Tourism. He noted that Knysna Tourism was a section 21 company, that was registered, had a board of directors and operated in terms of the Companies Act. Any civil or criminal matters raised by the petitioner pertaining to the operational issues of Knysna Tourism needed to be directed to Knysna Tourism. Notwithstanding that, everybody was aware that Knysna Tourism does receive an annual grant from the municipality, for providing various tourism services, and that was based on a service level agreement. This had been a practice in Knysna for twenty years. The reason for that was that Knysna’s tourism and related activities accounted for over 50% of the local economy, and this made it obvious that tourism is a critical component of the business in Knysna. Tourism is a very skilled market and there is lack of capacity within the municipality of Knysna to perform this task. The Knysna Municipality is not a wealthy municipality and looking at all the indicators, it ranked only about at number 125 of the 240 municipalities, and did not have the skills to run the tourism economy itself.
The Municipal Manager emphasised that Knysna Tourism was not a municipal entity, it is an entity separate from the municipality and a section 21 company. Some people think it is a municipal entity and governed by the Council, but it is not actually how it operates. He said that the Knysna Municipality had committed itself to a contribution of R4m per annum as a grant to Knysna Tourism within the current period of the service level agreement. The figure in the past had varied between R1.8m up to over R6m during the 2010 World Cup to market the town. Denmark and France were booked to stay at Knysna for the duration of the tournament which was a remarkable boost for the economy of the town.
He wanted to note that the grant to Knysna Tourism was specifically highlighted separately in the Medium Term Revenue Framework (MTRF), the legal budget document of the Municipality, and this should be read separately from the Annual Financial Statement. He added that there were two grants that were made by the Municipality in terms of service level agreements. The first grant goes to a very small organisation which maintains the leisure islands where the wealthy people lived, in order to maintain it and provide security guards and so forth. The second was for Knysna Tourism.
Mr Easton asserted that, contrary to Mr Hampton’s allegations, the Knysna Municipality did not award a grant without any assessment of a section 21 company. In the documents submitted to the Committee was the 2010 Service Level Agreement, marked as Annexure A. Similar definitions of service were also found in the 2015 Service Level Agreement.
A comment had been made by Mr Hampton when he submitted the allegations regarding using the grant in one year. That was part of the cash flow operations and was perfectly normal day to day business of Knysna Tourism to run its books and accounts in the way it does. There was nothing untoward in using the proportion of the grant for its day to day activities. The fact it was running into a deficit was actually not relevant to anything. It operated in the same way any other local authority would operate when getting an equitable share. Knysna Tourism had submitted operational and expenditure reports to the Audit Committee for Governance and Economic Development, which were then submitted to the Knysna Municipal Council. These reports were discussed in the full Council, which entails a very robust debate and the Committee would be welcome to attend such a meeting.
He wanted to make the Committee aware that Mr Hampton was previously a beneficiary of the work done by Knysna Tourism. There is no record of Mr Hampton having lodged a complaint against the company, nor did he submit any claims of fraud or corruption against the company. Unfortunately, Mr Hampton’s contract came to an end, because the work he was doing, which was training in the townships, was identified as an area that needed someone who was an accredited trainer. Only when his contract was not renewed did Mr Hampton start to lodge complaints, firstly to Knysna Tourism and then to Knysna Municipality.
The Chairperson asked the Municipal Manager to clarify the complaint that was raised by the petitioner Mr Hampton to the effect that his emails had been blocked by the Municipality.
Mr Easton confirmed that when he was appointed as the Municipal Manager he had actually removed all the blocks. For many years Mr Hampton had been bombarding the Municipality with various requests for information on various issues. That in itself was not an issue because any member of the public was entitled to do so. More importantly, Mr Hampton knows perfectly well that the municipality has an improved customer complaints system in place, and that the blocks have now been lifted from the time that Mr Easton took up his position. It should be noted that some of the emails from Mr Hampton were rude and derogatory to the staff and Executive Mayor, and on his website he has published cartoons that were racist. At some point, he said that the Municipality would have to take a stance that enough was enough. It was a serious situation where a local authority had been shown so much disrespect, with no substance to the issues raised. The Municipality had not taken on Mr Hampton publicly, because it was not the function of the Municipality to do that. Now all his emails were being tracked, and the proper procedures and policies were being followed.
The Executive Mayor then responded to the allegations around the illegal appointment of the Municipal Manager made by Mr Hampton. She said that Mr Easton's suitability to hold office was evaluated in terms of the evaluation criteria set out in the regulations for the appointment of senior managers, which were promulgated on the 17 January 2014. Mr Easton received the highest scores measured against the score competency set out for municipal regulation.
She noted that a copy of Mr Easton’s curriculum vitae had been tabled for the Committee. Previously, Mr Easton was a Chief Financial Officer of the Municipality, before he became the Municipal Manager. Mr Easton achieved two clean audits for the Municipality since being appointed to the position of Municipal Manager.
The Executive Mayor denied that there was anything illegal about the payment of the salary of Mr Easton and had attached copies of the contract of employment. Mr Easton was paid in accordance with the total remuneration package maximum, plus an additional 9% market premium allowance, and such an allowance was provided for in the currently amended Upper Limit Notice. Mr Easton had the same qualifications when he was appointed by the Municipality in prior positions, in 2002, 2006 and 2012. The Municipality had proof that indeed Mr Easton holds a bachelor’s degree from Glasgow, Caledonia University. She had, through he office of the MEC, submitted a copy of his University degree and a printout of the course credit record from the university, as well as verification by an accredited agency that he holds such degree.
The Executive Mayor said that it should be highlighted that all the information in relation to the petition submitted to the Committee has been obtained from the Municipality, has been discussed in various Council agendas and through robust debates that took place in Council, the majority of which the petitioner frequently had attended.
Mr M Chetty (KwaZulu-Natal, DA) requested the Municipal Manager to send the allegedly racist cartoons to the Committee, so that it would be able to deal with the issue.
Mr Chetty asked how many of the initial emails from Mr Hampton were blocked.
The Municipal Manager said that the cartoons would be made available to the Committee. He would have to check with the IT department as to how many emails were blocked but would furnish this information to the Committee by the end of the week.
Mr D Ximbi (Western Cape, ANC) asked for clarity with regard to the blocking or not blocking of emails.
Mr Ximbi asked what kind of “governing” the Municipal Manager was talking about, if the Municipality was not listening to and taking care of the people that area.
The Municipal Manager confirmed that up to a point Mr Hampton's emails had been blocked by the Municipality, but that when he took over as Municipal Manager, he unblocked them. He wanted to clarify that this was not so much a question of governing but of administration that had led to the initial blocking. The administrative team was unable to do its job properly because it was tied up with answering endless questions from the petitioner. There was a special management team to handle complaints, but when they were all tied up with endless queries from one person, and because of the time factor,they were not able to deal with all complaints at the same time. For example, an account query could take weeks to resolve, and water leaks could take two weeks to resolve, but Mr Hampton was insisting to answers to everything within a day or two. He acknowledged that often, bureaucracies are “slow beasts”, but Mr Hampton was not interested in understanding that, and he would post on his Facebook page the minute he did not get an immediate answer. On his Facebook page this morning, Mr Hampton had criticised the Committee, saying that he had only received his invitation the day before the meeting.
Ms Mokwele asked how often the Knysna Municipality would hold public participation sessions with the community. She repeated the concern that the Municipality was not portraying itself as particularly receptive to the community if it was blocking emails that had complaints.
Mr Easton responded that during his interview for his current post, he had stressed to the Mayoral Committee that there had to be continuous communication. According to Mr Hampton, the Municipality was just not communicating enough. There were a raft of different communication systems. There were very active ward committees and communication units, and there was a full Communication Department, just set up, with staff who were doing the job of communication very well. Mr Hampton attended all the Mayoral Committee meetings and the Council meetings, but did not attend the ward committee meetings. The Municipality genuinely did agree that they should respond promptly to the queries, ideally within seven days, which they do generally, but the realities were that Mr Hampton was not happy with the communication he received. He conceded that there was still room for improvement in the communication system but in this case the Municipality was dealing with an individual who was not prepared to follow processes of the Municipality.
The Executive Mayor added that Mr Hampton set his own requirements in terms of the time frames within which the Municipality should respond. He will send an email and ask for a response “immediately” or at at a time that he finds convenient to himself.
Mr M Mohapi (ANC, Free State) asked if the Municipality was aware of the concept of freedom of expression of every citizen in South Africa, if they claimed to be “bombarded” with complaints. He also asked if the Municipality was aware of section 52 of the Constitution, which outlined certain constitutional obligations from the side of the municipality, and which encouraged participation of communities in the affairs of the municipality. He said that the Knysna Municipality must ensure that it was democratic and accountable to its community. He asked why the Municipality was so irritated with the Mr Hampton’s submission. He also wanted to know what the Municipality was doing to ensure that there was capacity so that it could effectively respond to issues of communication. He asked what the legal implications were of giving consideration to blocking or unblocking email correspondence.
Mr Mohapi asked what it was that had prompted Mr Hampton's anger; the Committee could see that this petition related to a Municipality that was deeply tied up with one individual. He noted the reference to the Municipality having done a survey, and asked what had informed that, whether it was something done across the board or whether it was linked only to issues around Mr Hampton, and asked what the findings of that had been.
Mr Mohapi then asked for clarity with regard to the allegation that part of the money that was allocated to Knysna Tourism, being an amount of around R200 000, was used for court battles. There was also an allegation of an amount of R270 000 had been paid as a golden handshake to the former Chief Executive Officer.
Mr Easton said that he could not speak for Knysna Tourism. The documents that were tabled before the Committee contained the last two service agreements between Knysna Tourism and the Municipality and the expiry date for these was September 2016. Currently, there are three members of the Municipality that sit on Knysna Tourism board. One is the Speaker of the Municipality, another is the Chief Whip of the ANC, and the third is the Director for Planning from the Municipality.
Mr Ximbi asked whether the Municipality followed the requirements of the advertisement when it appointed the Municipal Manager.
The Executive Mayor confirmed that this had been done and said that she would send a copy of the advertisement to the Committee.
The Chairperson asked Mr Easton why, if he was unable to speak on behalf of Knysna Tourism, the Municipality was able to account for the money paid over.
Mr Mohapi felt that the Municipal Manager was not answering the questions as they should be answered. He suggested that, because of the current time constraints, this meeting should now be adjourned, but that Knysna Tourism must be asked to appear before the Committee and give ample time to deal with all the questions that had been raised at this meeting, but not answered.
Mr Easton confirmed that he was aware of what was going on in the Municipality and how the Municipality had spent the tourism money, but all the other information as to the use to which it must be put by Knysna Tourism was contained in the municipal service level agreements that had been submitted to the Committee
Ms Mokwele felt it was important to have everybody present in the same meeting to deal with all the issues.
Mr Chetty said that it was not necessary to call everybody to another meeting, but he suggested that instead, all the outstanding questions should be put to the parties in writing, for he Municipality then to respond in writing
The Chairperson said that the Members would go through all the necessary information needed before arriving at a determination.
The meeting was adjourned.
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