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Big Job for 'Elephant Man' Greg Vogt

19 June 2014, 09:26
Greg Vogt, the ex-7-year-manager of the elephant park at the centre of the animal abuse scandal, has got a new job... as CEO of Knysna Tourism. Guilty or not, public relations and tourism are image industries so why would Knysna, a tourist-based economy, give this man one of the most important positions in town? It's disturbing that the panel that chose him was comprised of 3 people (Lauren Waring, Stephen de Vries, Nan Raturat) who, along with him, have been involved in the financial cover-up i've been trying to expose for 3 years. As i prepare the case for submission to national authorities (provincially, efforts towards truth have been intentionally hampered), i summarise all my questions and discoveries.

The central question is whether the spending of taxpayer’s money requires oversight? It must seem to be one of the dumbest questions of all time but remains the most relevant regarding the Knysna Tourism financial disaster that resulted in zero punishment and seemed to reward the ex-CEO, Shaun van Eck, with R270 000 and the new CEO,  Greg Vogt, with a high-paying job.

I’ve written so much and dealt with so many people yet the fundamentals have remained unanswered for years. These have been deliberately obscured by those involved who talk very well (yet with little substance) and subjective newspapers who’ve chosen a side (which led me to voice my concern that advertising revenues, small town relationships and political party affiliations are more important than seeking the truth).

Truth matters! The primary goals remain:

1. To view a detailed breakdown of exactly who received what money and if that subscribed to supply chain management. That this has not being provided suggests that favouritism and corruption is being hidden.

2. To have guilty parties (which reach politically to the top) removed from positions of power and punished.

This unresolved topic of maladministration, possible fraud and cronyism at Knysna Tourism has again entered the spotlight with the controversial appointment of Greg Vogt as the CEO. That Greg Vogt was chosen as the #1 candidate out of 115 international and national applicants is odd considering that:

1. He is the man at the centre of the elephant abuse scandal (manager of the Knysna Elephant Park for 7 years). Guilt needs to be decided by the courts but it makes no sense that a man with a tainted image is selected to represent the image of a town (recently, Knysna Tourism’s mandate was extended beyond tourism to include all businesses). He has already failed his position, and displayed conflict of interest, by allowing Knysna Tourism to issue an irresponsible press release regarding the Knysna Elephant Park.

2. Vogt has been the primary figure in the Knysna Tourism scandal, first as deputy chair and then as the chairman of the Knysna Tourism Board.

3. Despite refusing to provide relevant information that will help the public understand what went wrong, he has presented himself as helpful which translates into a lie that questions his integrity and, consequently, his occupation of one of the most important and powerful seats in town.

4. He illegally received payments from Knysna Tourism through a third-party, Conservation Global. The latter organisation included Vogt as a Director but payment was made by the other directors (who are the funders). The latter, who are foreigners, may have been unaware but Vogt will have known that the regulations of Knysna Tourism did not permit financial gain for any Board member. That he had the payment made indirectly and never informed Tourism’s membership suggests deliberate deviousness.

5. The constitution of Knysna Tourism states that the Board must: “Never permit a conflict of duties and interest and must disclose potential conflicts of interest at the earliest opportunity.” Conflict, however, abounds.

That last point is an important one. Publicly, i led the call for the removal of Shaun van Eck, the previous CEO for Knysna Tourism, but it was Greg Vogt who eventually led the legal actions against him which forced Van Eck to leave with a R270 000 compromise that ensured his silence. Early on, i asked Vogt if he was gunning for the CEO job, stating that i would not work with him if he was carrying such ulterior motive. He was adamant that he wasn’t. Yet here he is, doing exactly the opposite.

Other central figures include Lauren Waring, Knysna’s Municipal Manager and MEC for Finance and Tourism, Alan Winde. This story is in several parts which will also include a the laws broken and how they've blocked efforts to get to the truth. Please keep reading at ‘Tourism Truth #2: The Lauren Waring Lie'.

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