Ezemvelo not looking after its assets, says auditor

2011-10-14 00:00

EZEMVELO KZN Wildlife received a qualified audit opinion for 2010/11, a key reason being the poor management and upkeep of its assets such as buildings and roads in its nature reserves.

In the KZN Legislature a standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) member, Jo-ann Downs, also asked why Ezemvelo bought 45 Football World Cup tickets.

The conservation entity’s CEO, Dr Bandile Mkhize, said a team is evaluating buildings, assessing what maintenance has to be carried out and working out costs for renovations and repairs.

He said the report is expected to be ready in January 2012.

Mkhize told Scopa the qualified audit opinion was because Ezemvelo had moved on to a new finance system and that in the change-over, “ a couple of things fell through the cracks; that is why we regressed”.

During last year’s mid-term review both Scopa and the legislature’s finance committee were told of buildings in wildlife parks in a state of disrepair, poor collection of gate fees and broken-down vehicles.

Yesterday Downs (ACDP) expressed concern that despite previous warnings by the legislature, Ezemvelo is still not making an effort to generate its own income and become self-sustaining.

Downs said that revenue has declined and the amount spent on advertising and marketing has decreased rather than increased to let the public know about the facilities on offer.

Mkhize said it is true that the revenue is down and that is because Ezemvelo was affected badly during the Fifa World Cup when tourists failed to visit the resorts.

However, he added, there has been an improvement and since the audit it has been on a vigorous drive to improve occupancy rates at Ezemvelo resorts and marketing and advertising budgets have been increased.

He was unapologetic about the World Cup tickets, saying they were necessary and were distributed among potential customers and strategic partners of the conservation entity,

For members of Scopa there must have been a sense of deja vu when the Ezemvelo team arrived without a written response. During last year’s mid-term review the team also failed to respond in writing, that time to a committee resolution asking how the conservation body planned to become more financially self-sustainable.

Mkhize told committee chairperson Rina Naidoo he did not know that he was required to give a written response. However, he undertook to submit the report.

Nature conservation receives between about a half and two-thirds of the funds it needs to be managed properly, according to Environment Minister Edna Molewa.

She noted that a 2009 costing exercise found a total conservation funding shortfall of about R3,4 billion.

This was mainly due to provincial environment departments “having to compete with other critical functions such as health, education and social welfare”.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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