WE CAN’T BUILD A CITY ON WASTEFUL EXPENDITURE

Unlawful tenders tarnish development, writes Grant Haskin.

(This is the article that first appeared in the Cape Argus on Tuesday 08 April 2014. It is based on my previous blog, titled “CTICC EXPANSION MUST PROCEED LEGALLY AFTER ALL DISPUTES ARE RESOLVED”)

THE DA’S REFUSAL TO HEAR THE MATTER IN A PUBLIC FORUM SPEAKS VOLUMES.

While the greatness of Cape Town and valuable institutions like the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) are precious public assets, none of these virtues give the CTICC (through Convenco), the city or the Western Cape government the right to flout the law. The precedent of lucrative yet unlawful tenders already awarded while pursuing this expansion, the right to withhold information from the public and public representatives, must not be allowed to tarnish such assets on the grounds of “the greater good”.
While we need the development, jobs, excitement and sustainability that the CTICC expansion could offer, it must not be allowed to be founded on irregularities, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and maladministration.
As the chairman of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), I expect, on behalf of the taxpayers who must fund an expansion of this nature, to know that their hard-earned money is being well spent in a legal, compliant and transparent manner.
Although up to R2 billion is earmarked to be spent on this expansion, close to R200 million has already been spent on land and fees to date, at least R50m of which is founded on maladministration and irregularities. This is deeply concerning.
The beneficiaries have been the private-sector consultants who went into these contracts with their eyes open and should therefore be held equally accountable, as were the officials that should be/were reprimanded.
Sadly, the findings of the auditor-general three years in a row, the city’s forensic services department report of 2013, the public protector’s report, “Over a barrel” (report 16 of 2012/13), and that office’s continued investigations and recently announced expanded review, confirm that all is not well – prompting me to insist that Scopa interrogate the Convention Centre expansion, and to insist that the public protector interdicts the expansion until its review report is finalised and made public.
It should concern all of us that an item assessing allegations regarding these findings of substantial irregularities relating to irregular tender awards, was forced off Scopa’s agenda by the DA majority last month, prompting a constitutional debate that tests the core of our democracy.
While the demonstration of
Wintolerance appears to be at the forefront of the DA agenda, the duplicity it has demonstrated in this regard is disingenuous. So why, then, did I ask Steven Lukey, of Lukey and Associates, to present to Scopa on these irregularities?
Lukey is a registered professional with more than 30 years’ experience in the property and built environment at director level. He has an intimate knowledge of the Foreshore Joint Venture Land Transaction spanning 18 years.
His knowledge, professionalism and integrity earned him the position of Project Champion of the Foreshore Joint Venture, and his success is born out in the more than R380m of land rights he acquired for the city, province and Naspers.
Lukey was also a co-author of the Land Transaction Agreement and the motivation report that gave birth to the land rights and its associated site development plans.
He speaks highly of the entire joint venture team that encouraged and integrated professional members of the city, province and the private sector that achieved remarkable value and facilitated development opportunities such as the proposed CTICC expansion.
Given his intimate knowledge, I don’t believe there is anyone who knows the details more than Lukey. The DA should welcome his availability and willingness to shed light on these irregularities, so that we can all know how the public’s money was and is being spent.
Sadly, the DA’s continued refusal to hear the matter in an open, costfree public forum, such as Scopa, speaks volumes about what it appears to be hiding. Moreover, its insistence that this matter should instead be taken to a court of law – at what it knows will be exorbitant cost – smacks of intimidation.
I say this because Parliament comprises elected public representatives who, in committees, frequently convene meetings that are open to the public and where departmental officials appear to provide evidence, explain and be interrogated about their decisions, plans and actions, and to hear ours and the public’s views on relevant matters.
In the provincial parliament, our standing committees even have the power to summon people who refuse to appear by invitation.
Thus, standing committees purposefully provide easy, timeous and cost-free opportunities for the public to engage their elected public representatives and the officials from departments on matters that concern them.
That is the very essence of our representative parliamentary system, which is designed in such a way that the public do not have to approach the courts in the first instance. Why, then, is it that the DA insists that Lukey approach the courts for relief (at great cost and time), rather than appear before Scopa?
Lukey has on several occasions also proactively recommended an assisted dispute resolution process to resolve all issues. This process falls within the public protector’s mandate, but even this has fallen on deaf ears.
The provincial parliamentary rules provide that the chairman of each standing committee determine the agenda. It does not expect consultation with committee members or anyone else, for that matter.
I’m not against such consultation and have done so often, but it’s certainly not a requirement.
In fact, all DA chairs of committees, including those chairs who are members of Scopa, regularly determine the agenda of their own committees in the same way I did, amid few complaints, if any.
The Speaker has agreed with me in writing that I am correct and that not even he, as head of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, is able to determine whether a matter should or should not appear on a committee agenda. The Cape Town International Convention Centre Company (Pty) Ltd (Convenco) owns and manages the Convention Centre.
Convenco is jointly owned by the City of Cape Town (50.2-percent shareholding), the Western Cape government (25.1 percent shareholding) and SunWest International (Pty) Ltd (24.7 percent shareholding).
It is abundantly clear for the following reasons that Scopa not only has a clear right, but an obligation, to attend to this matter and should do so urgently before even more of the public’s money is spent:
The Western Cape’s Convenco Act provides for the provincial government’s shareholding.
The provincial cabinet appoints one or more directors on the Convenco board.
The provincial minister of finance may only appropriate funds authorised through the annual Western Cape budget.
The accounting officer, being the head of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism in the Western Cape, is responsible for the financial management of any funds appropriated by the provincial government for the benefit of Convenco and must manage and account for all such funds, in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act.
The Public Finance Management Act applies to the provincial government.
Dividends accruing to the provincial government are deemed to be income and must be paid into the Provincial Revenue Fund, managed by the provincial Treasury, which reports to Scopa.
The accounting officer must ensure that the annual report of Convenco is tabled in the provincial parliament (and therefore Scopa) and submitted to the auditor-general.
The rules of the provincial parliament require the relevant ministers to account to it and its committees on the Western Cape government’s 25.1 percent shareholding and all previous financial appropriations to the Convention Centre, and on compliance with the Convenco Act.
Grant Haskin of the ACDP is the chairman of SCOPA

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One thought on “WE CAN’T BUILD A CITY ON WASTEFUL EXPENDITURE

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