A Year of courage and conviction in the face of brazen corruption – Chairman’s Year-end Message

Plett Alert: Summer Concert 150 000 attendees promised…’Unsolicited Festivals the new cash-cow’
December 6, 2018
Plett Ratepayers Portfolio Reports
December 11, 2018

A Year of courage and conviction in the face of brazen corruption – Chairman’s Year-end Message

You will have noticed a new direction in our communications — we no longer report the way we did in the past. We have, in the past, been a reporter of events.  We have observed from the sidelines.  It was possible in the past to do so by having cordial relations with the municipal senior management.  To trust in the content of reports, and above all to trust that that which was done by officials and council was lawful and to leave the watch dog role in the hands of council.

But as you have read in our recent articles, the times have changed.

Bitou Municipality is bloated in size, we’re paying consultants who don’t consult, legal fees for frivolous cases, expensive contracts for services not being adequately performed, and we are suffering the aftermath of big parties and reckless over-spending.  Every week more and more instances of maladministration are revealed.  The reckless level of spending we are experiencing cannot be sustained in a community our size.

Further revelations show potential municipal salary abuse, siphoning of funds out of the municipality for festivals and entertainment, tenders given to ghost companies, and on and on.  We can no longer have meaningful conversations with senior officials.  The content and quality of items brought to council are indicative of a complete loss of direction and sharp deviation of Constitutional values and prerogatives.

We have always respected the role to be played by our elected representatives and have stayed well back and allowed them to get on with it.  Mostly reporting and encouraging,  sometimes criticizing, but rarely interfering unless needed.  It appears that that approach, while technically right, does nothing to advance or even protect the interests of the residents.  The time has come to face harsh reality.

While there are some in the civil service who are diligent, hard working, capable, and honest, there are many who are not.  It appears we no longer have public representatives that are dedicated to and capable of serving the best interests of their constituencies.  What we have instead is a toxic mixture of organized crime and self-serving incompetence, stealing and wasting municipal funds to the benefit of themselves, their cronies and the political parties whose interests they serve.  The interests of residents of Plettenberg Bay are no longer served.

Times have changed, corruption in our municipality is rampant, and council is not playing the oversight role it is intended to.  It has become our role to bring it to your attention so we can all work together to address this new situation.  We can ignore it… or we can take them on, just as we did with the Small Boat Harbor, cancellation of Cem-Air, and the proposed Tourism by-law, which all required our active involvement. We have recently published articles on some of the suspected malfeasance and financial misconduct we have uncovered, and will continue to do so.  And in answer to your next question about what are we doing about it, here are some of our recent actions:

Excessive Municipal Salaries  Bitou’s budget reports R29 million in salaries is being shared by six top municipal employees.  We have submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to the Bitou Information Officer, requiring the municipality to provide us with  employment contracts, pay slips, vacation records, bonuses, qualifications, etc. We are waiting to see what happens. If we find abuses we will deal with it, and if funds are available, we will lay civil claims to recover the irregular expenditure.

Exhorbitant Spending on Festivals and Entertainment:

I have sent letters requesting a forensic investigation to the:

  • Hawks requesting investigation into whether expenditures on these events complied with Supply Chain Management, and whether they are doing business with entities that do not exist,
  • Auditor-General to investigate if money has been accounted for in terms of Section 76 of MFMA, whether money was paid over before council approval, and multiple breaches of relevant legislation,
  • National Treasury and Provincial Treasury to investigate if expenditures complied with policy guidelines, if expenditures were budgeted for or approved by council, and in instances where the decisions did go to council, were council decisions reckless and irresponsible,
  • SARS, since indications are there that no taxes are being paid by the beneficiaries of the huge amount of money being handed out.

We will also ask Council to rescind council decisions which secured funding of four festivals for another three years at a cost of R4.2 million. We will also explore our legal options to have the contract decisions reviewed and set aside or to declare that the expenditures were fruitless and wasteful or irregular, and set in motion recovery of the wasted funds from those responsible.

Debt Write-off in the Office of the Mayor:  Council wrote off R328,598.80 of fixed assets in the Office of the Mayor on 28 September 2018.  We have submitted a PAIA asking for the itemized list and the reason why each item was written off, plus the relevant policy on lost or misplaced assets.  If we aren’t satisfied, we will explore our options to recover the losses from those responsible.

Tenders and Supply Chain Management: our suspicions of dodgy tenders, bid awards, and ghost companies will be forwarded to the Hawks and if required, we will file criminal charges.

We intend to send a strong message that we will no longer tolerate the deterioration of service delivery and infrastructure for the benefit of a corrupt few.  Nor will we accept excessive tariff increases next June because of profligate spending by incompetent officials.

Although it is not the role of the RPA to take steps against the municipality, we will not hesitate to do so…and in fact are preparing for that eventuality.

You will hear more about this at the AGM on 13 December at Piesang Valley Hall.  It is our intent to ensure Plett remains a premier holiday destination.  It is going to take all of our efforts, but I am convinced we can do it, and encourage you to join us. 

We are looking for young, educated and inspired individuals, who can dedicate time and energy to helping the Ratepayers with the various community  portfolios.

Please join us at the upcoming  AGM or email us directly so we can discuss this matter further. 

 

Kind regards,

Neville Peterson

Chairman 

Join Today