For this complaint, I draw upon the work of activist and ex-prosecutor, Susan Campbell. She is the expert in this matter, explaining better than any of my blogs have. This matter is of the utmost importance for it decides the future of Knysna:
On the 15th of April 2013, the Knysna Municipality appointed Chris Mulder’s consortium, known as Knysna Creative Heads (KCH), to prepare an Integrated Strategic Development Framework (ISDF) for Knysna. The ISDF is essentially a process to review a number of legally mandated policy documents for the Knysna Municipality. The documents that are being reviewed are the Spatial Development Framework (SDF), Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Human Settlement Plan and Economic Development strategy. The first two policy documents are of particular concern.
In layman’s terms, the ISDF will plan the future of Knysna for the next 30 years.
Many Knysna residents were shocked at the obvious conflict of interest associated with appointing a local property developer and his development team to determine areas where future development would be permitted and infrastructure spend would be directed.
An unprecedented 133 people and groups (including the Western Heads Protection Group) objected to the award of the tender. The then Municipal Manager, Lauren Waring, was obliged by law, in terms of the Supply Chain Management Policy of the Municipality, to appoint an independent person to deal with the objections. They did not.
Some objectors received no response at all.
One objection was 29 pages long [ISDF1] and contained extensive allegations but were dismissed by Lauren Waring in a single letter. None of the allegations or arguments were dealt with and the complainants were not afforded a hearing to state their case.
They referred their objection to the treasury of the Western Cape Provincial Government and had a meeting with Alan Winde, the MEC for Finance.
The concerns, set out in emails to MEC Alan Winde and MEC Anton Bredell, are briefly set out hereunder:
1. PG Bison is the largest private property owner in Knysna. The company owns more land than Barlows in the Western Heads area and just about the whole of Rheenendal (having acquired the Van Reenen forestry holdings), Ruitgevlei, Bracken Hill etc.
2. PG Bison appointed the property developer, Chris Mulder of CMAI, in 2012 to investigate and obtain the necessary approvals for a residential property development in Reenendal.
3. Mulder approached Mike Maughan-Brown (MMB), the Director of Planning and Development for the Knysna Municipality to discuss PG Bison’s plans and was advised that the Spatial Development Framework (SDF) didnot cater for their development proposals. This led to the questionable arrangement, endorsed by Council, where Mulder and his usual development team (with the addition of Peet Joubert), were appointed in November 2012 by the Knysna Municipality to prepare a Structure Plan for Rheenendal.
4. PG Bison would pay the consultants and Knysna Municipality would contribute R80 000. This appointment was made despite the fact that the SDF would be reviewed as part of the ISDF process in early 2013. The rationale behind this appointment is hard to fathom, as a SDF trumps a Structure Plan and the Structure Plan would therefore have to be in line with the SDF.
5. Mulder’s company, CMAI, was appointed in April 2013 to prepare the ISDF, which includes the review of the SDF. In short, Mulder heads the process whereby the development areas for the next 5 to 30 years will be mapped out and the location for infrastructure spend will be determined.
6. The ISDF tender was prepared and awarded under the watch of Mike-Maughn Brown who, incidentally, prior to his working for the Knysna Municipality, advised PG Bison’s predecessor, Steinhoff, on issues relating to their land holdings and forestry settlements. Brown is overseeing the process and has advised the consultants that there will be no ‘no-go’ areas, contrary to the specifications for the SEA in the tender document.
7. Mulder’s wife, Pat Mulder is conducting the public participation process despite the fact that she has no relevant qualifications or experience. In one ISDF meeting, she strongly came to the defence of her client PG Bison when their treatment of forestry communities was discussed – a clear example of the conflict of interest.
8. PG Bison is actively encouraging forestry communities to leave its plantations.
9. Adding to the conflict is the fact that Mulder’s son, Steff Mulder, has been tasked with preparing the Human Settlement Plan. The PG Bison forestry settlements have been an ongoing problem and Steff can hardly be expected to be unbiased where his client, PG Bison, is involved.
10. It has been established from reliable sources that PG Bison intends to develop in the Uitzicht area in future.
11. Apparently ten per cent of the shares in PG Bison were acquired by a BEE Consortium. It is alleged that there is pressure from the ‘the ANC’ in Cape Town, urging the local ANC to support PG Bison’s development plans in Rheenendal. If this is true, it would explain why the ANC, as opposition, are not acting as opposition.
We therefore are faced with a situation where the town’s most prominent property developer, employed by the town’s largest land owner, is managing the process in which Knysna’s long term development future will be mapped out.
The process will be overseen by Town Planner, Mike Maughn-Brown, who was previously a consultant to the land owner.
Lauren Waring, the ex-Municipal Manager, would have had us believe that the consortium consists of a ‘team of professionals’, who will exercise checks and balances over each other and will not risk their reputations in the process.
The so called ‘checks and balances’ provides little reassurance as:
a) CMAI, represented by Chris Mulder, is the Project Leader.
b) The public participation process is conducted by CMAI, represented by Mulder’s wife Pat.
c) The Human Settlement Plan is prepared by CMAI, represented by Chris and Pat’s son, Steff Mulder.
The enormous influence of one family, with interests in the property development business, over the future of our town is extremely worrying.
Furthermore, this consortium did not achieve the lowest price or highest score in the tender. City Think Space, the team that should have been awarded the tender is highly and appropriately qualified to deliver the ISDF. In addition to this, there is no risk of conflict of interest in respect of the team that should have been awarded the tender.
The DA, headed by Mayor Georlene Wolmarans, were extremely unhelpful but, suddenly, in 2014, she sent a request to MEC Alan Winde for the allegations to be investigated. It was odd because no facts had changed and she could have instituted her own investigation. It turned out that this was how the DA would try whitewash the matter and push it through.
Firstly, despite a town being unable to proceed its development until the ISDF was cleared, MEC Anton Bredell’s department kept delaying the report without adequate reasoning. When it eventually arrived in March 2015, it was only a summarised version. No reason has been given for Bredell not supplying the full report despite it affecting the appointment of the new Municipal Manager.
Nevertheless, Bredell’s report concurred with the objectors. 10 of these points are included in evidence (ISDF2a, ISDF2b). It’s so damning that the only conclusion one could logical draw was that the ISDF could not proceed under the Knysna Creative Heads consortium and that heads would role. Instead, in total contrast to his findings, Bredell stated that he saw no reason why the ISDF could not proceed as is.
I asked Susan Campbell for her opinion. She responded with:
“The question is why the full report has not been shared with the public and the Councillors who are expected to support the RECOMMENDATION OF THE EXECUTIVE MAYOR which is,
‘…that the Provincial Government has found the process … to be compliant with SCM [Supply Chain Management] prescripts and regulations and that any deficiencies in the process did not influence the outcome of the procurement process.’
I agree with you that Minster Bredell and his team have dismally failed at their whitewash attempt.
The finding in 1.7 below contradicts the conclusion that the “deficiencies” did not influence the outcome of the process.
A tender has to be awarded to the highest scoring bidder unless it is reasonable and justifiable not to do so. These so-called “objective criteria” or reasons have to be included in the minutes of the BAC meeting in sufficient detail that a court of law can understand why the tender was not awarded to the highest scoring bidder. The finding in 1.7 means that this was not done. No valid reasons or “objective criteria” were provided by the municipality to justify the award the of the tender to the second highest scoring bidder. City Think Space tendered the lowest price and scored the highest points. The ISDF contract should have been awarded to them yet it was awarded the Knysna Creative Heads Consortium led by CMAI, Chris Mulder’s company.
The tender was therefore unlawfully awarded to the wrong tenderer.
How Minister Bredell and the Mayor can expect us to accept that awarding the tender to the wrong party did not affect the outcome of the process is beyond comprehension!”
The ISDF is further controversial in that Mayor Georlene Wolmarans tabled her motion to appoint Grant Easton as Municipal Manager only to withdraw it after a caucus at the last moment. Her reasoning was that she had to wait for the full ISDF report from MEC Anton Bredell, implying that Easton first had to be cleared of ISDF SCM entanglements. At the next Council Meeting, she had still not received the report yet ignored her own reasoning by appointing him anyway. This will be discussed more in the next section.