Disclose Ezemvelo forensic report

2008-09-17 00:00

The provincial legislature’s finance portfolio committee has called for the suspension of the board members of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW).

This resolution was taken at a closed meeting on Tuesday where committee members were briefed by the head of provincial Treasury on the forensic audit report into allegations of fraud and corruption at EKZNW.

• The Animal Interest Alliance (AIA) raised its concerns in 2006 about the legal powers and financial authority of the board to undertake a “policy process” (the management of ex situ wild animals in KwaZulu-Natal) that went beyond its statutory mandate, did not have financial approval therefore, and misled the public in that it suggested that the proposed policy would have the effect of law.

• The policy process was abandoned and the huge cost (comparatively, in an organisation that has insufficient funds to manage its core mandate of biodiversity conservation) was lost.

• Undaunted, the board allowed the same process to continue, disguised as a “norms and standards” consultation procedure.

• The MEC for Agriculture and Environmental Affairs refused to accept that there were fatal flaws procedurally and substantively in the way in which EKZNW was conducting its business.

• The MEC has not delegated authority to officials of EKZNW (or other officials in his employ) to implement the Threatened and Protected Species Regulations (Tops) which replaces the existing outdated provincial ordinances and provides policy and regulation for the management of wild animals.

• On the face of it, this is an act of defiance against the implementation of law and policy that has national effect and reflects the parochial attitudes of EKZNW and the personal ambitions of some officials.

• The national minister has asked his officials to ensure that the MEC makes the necessary delegation without delay be-cause the administration of wildlife management in the province is being compromised.

• AIA has repeatedly called for assurances that there has been proper financial authorisation of the processes that have been undertaken.

• The expensive processes that have been followed and abandoned have done no more than promote the personal agendas of the protagonists of the failed processes.

• In the result, the financial viability (and international credibility) of a once world-class conservation agency has been destroyed and the protection of our wildlife resources is seriously compromised.

• AIA members are affected and will act to protect their rights. Members share a common concern with all who have a love of animals and who are concerned about our natural heritage.

• The protection of wildlife is not in good hands at the higher levels of administration in KZN.

• AIA is concerned that the real talent and skills in EKZNW represented by many dedicated officials will be lost.

AIA supports the call of the portfolio committee to suspend the entire board. However, this raises some important legal and constitutional implications. The MEC cannot simply appoint a “caretaker” board. If he chooses to remove a board member, he must report this to the Provincial legislature. The MEC may suspend a board member pending dismissal and on the limited evidence made public, he must do so.

At the constitutional level, the national minister must intervene. The national government has not complied with its obligation to assist provincial government to assume responsibility for the functions assigned to it.

South Africa has concluded international agreements on transfrontier parks in which EKZNW is an integral part. These cannot be compromised.

It would appear that the benefits of an independent custodian of our wildlife resources is now spent and that this function must be subsumed into the international agenda.

AIA believes that a collective response is called for. This is not a time for vested interests to be promoted. It starts with a proper interrogation of the issues, public disclosure of the facts and a process to assimilate decisions that may determine our future. Accountability, be it in public office, officials in the employ of the various authorities, NGOs and individuals, is what is lacking.

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