Knysna Council approves Government Support Plan

Knysna Council has received, and approved, the Support Plan compiled by the Western Cape Provincial Government (WCPG). The document is based on a Diagnostic Analysis and Diagnostic Assessment Report compiled by the Western Cape Department of Local Government.

Knysna Executive Mayor Aubrey Tsengwa explained the key objectives of the diagnostic assessment. “The assessment identifies areas that are functioning well, but also areas that require attention, correction and support,” he said. “It proposes solutions to address the root causes of each problem area and informs the Support Plan.”

The assessment involved municipal officials and a multi-disciplinary team of subject matter experts from the Department of Local Government (DLG), Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and the Garden Route Disaster Management Centre, under the leadership of DLG and the National Department of Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs (COGTA). The Provincial Treasury also assessed the municipal finances and had a number of engagements with relevant municipal officials.

“This plan highlights priorities that need to be addressed across the various directorates within the municipality,” said Tsengwa. “While Council has adopted this plan, it must be noted that none of these are ‘quick fixes’, I am taking this opportunity to share the most notable recommendations with our residents. A lot of work, and cooperation between the municipality and various governmental departments, must be done before any of these proposals can be put into place.”

Critical vacancies throughout the municipality must be filled as per the approved organisational structure. A full complement of qualified and capable staff that adhere to service delivery principles will enable the organisation to deliver information and essential services throughout the various directorates to its various communities, and help to re-establish community confidence in the municipality.

“All staff appointments, plans, projects, maintenance and development cost money,” said Tsengwa. “The draft plan suggests that the suggestions of the Development Bank of Southern Africa Revenue Enhancement Project be implemented, including a review of tariffs and General Valuation reconciliation, to generate revenue and enhance collection. A budget funding plan can assist in achieving a credible funded budget with cash-backed grants and liquidity ratios that meet the norms. An audit action plan can also assist in winning back our unqualified audit status, and a supply chain management assessment will identify ways in which this process can be streamlined and perform to the optimal fiscal benefit of the municipality and our rate payers.”

Master plans for all infrastructure services should be updated and projects should be prioritised accordingly to determine streams of project funding. Recapacitating the Infrastructure Directorate will ensure the day-to-day operation of infrastructure, improve the response time to spillages and ensure that routine maintenance plans are followed. Additional water storage in areas where it is most needed should be considered.

“The plan suggests that a service level agreement with the Garden Route District Municipality be signed regarding a regional waste disposal facility, but Council has been advised of viable alternative options that it is also evaluating,” Tsengwa continued. “The WCPG’s assessment shows that our waste tariffs should be re-evaluated as they are well below the norm of our neighbouring municipalities. It has also been suggested that collection points are reviewed and monitored to ensure that customers, specifically businesses, are not taking advantage of the system by placing more bins and bags out for collection than they are paying for to be collected.”

The requisite training and/or development initiatives to assist councillors with fulfilling their roles and performing their responsibilities should be determined and implemented. This includes their roles and responsibilities in terms of regulating administrative decisions. Comprehensive training on the Code of Conduct for Councillors should be the norm, along with strict enforcement of the code by the Speaker.

Proper and effective legal guidance will ensure adherence to all legal prescripts and compliance requirements, and the municipality has the opportunity to submit a list of policies that we require assistance with reviewing. A workshop with councillors and municipal officials on anti-corruption, fraud and ethics should be organised with collaboration from COGTA, the Specialist Investigating Unit, Provincial Treasury and National Treasury.

In terms of facilitating access to adequate housing, effective land use planning compliance management and law enforcement systems must be implemented. It is suggested that Council’s delegation register and categorisation of applications is reviewed. Adequate land use planning processes should be instituted and zoning scheme by-laws and planning by-laws could be amended and implemented while land use planning policies and guidelines should be developed and implemented. We have already started the process of updating our Municipal Spatial Development Framework and invite local businesses, rate payers’ organisations, the private sector and greater public to keep an eye on the press and our social media platforms for upcoming community participation engagements.

The plan also makes suggestions regarding supporting and strengthening corporate governance of information communication technology.

“Considering the challenges we face as an organisation and a community, we welcome the suggestions made and guidance delivered in the WCPG’s assessment and plan,” said Tsengwa. “As a living and ever-evolving document, the Report and Support Plan will be further discussed and finalised between Knysna Municipality, COGTA and the Western Cape Provincial Government, fusing inputs and suggestions from provincial and national government with those of the municipality into one final document. Regular meetings will be held to monitor progress and ensure accountability.”

“We appreciate the support of these provincial and national governmental departments,” Tsengwa concluded. “We are committed to working with them – and our residents – to cure the ills that are affecting the positive development of the greater Knysna area. We are working towards a better Knysna for all our residents, and look forward to the cooperation of our community in achieving an inclusive, innovated, inspired Knysna.”