Swimming clubs may lease pools

2010-08-31 00:00

THE Msunduzi Municipality is considering outsourcing its swimming pools which have become run down after years of under-funding.

The Executive Committee (Exco) decided at its meeting last week to test the market for such an initiative. Officials will be puting out a notice to the public inviting an expression of interest which will include proposals as to how the prospective leasor plans to run the swimming pool.

Councillors were told that the Joliffe Swimming Pool in Pine Street was leased to the Seals Swimming Club about ten years ago and the arrangement has been successful. Following years of complaints alleging shortcomings in the management of the swimming pools, Council’s Internal Audit Unit carried out an investigation, The report was completed in May 2009 and at that time recommended that consideration be given to outsourcing the management and maintenance of the pools. The report got stalled in various committees and re-surfaced this year as the turnaround team set about clearing the backlog of issues that had not been addressed.

The internal audit investigation found a basis for some of the complaints of poor management. Issues picked up included insufficient lifeguards at pools; the use of chlorine gas at pools by unqualified staff who are unmonitored and unsupervised; no control measures, hence no idea if the revenue collected matched the number of people entering the pool.

Internal Audit also noted that the infrastructure at the pools were in dire need of an upgrade. The report said that a professional assessment of the pools had been conducted by a company called Africon in 2009. Africon recommended that the municipality needed to commit a substantial amount of money from both its capital and operating budgets for the refurbishment of the buildings and pools. However, despite the recommendation, swimming pools continued to be underfunded.

Concerns were raised whether the privatisation of the swimming pools could lead to the clubs or organisations running them increasing the entry fees. These private organisations could also restrict those who could enter the swimming baths and change the opening and closing times of the pools.

Officials said that these issues could be addressed in the lease agreement.

DA Councillor Roger Ashe, who at one time managed the swimming pools for the municipality welcomed this latest development. He said he was glad that the matter was being dealt with at long last. “It was obvious that the public were most dissatisfied with the service at the swimming pools, which were also running at a loss,” he said.

Ashe added that if council subsidised the pools they can stipulate the entry fee and ensure that the public are still served. Subsidising the pools will still be cheaper for the municipality than managing the entire service. Exco was told that the cost of running the seven public swimming pools in the city, including staff costs, amounted to over R5,6 million in the 2009/2010 financial year. This was the amount conservatively set aside for the service. However a lot more would be needed to ensure that the infrastructure was upgraded and lifeguards were on duty.

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