Ezemvelo salary bill questioned

2012-04-19 00:00

SEVENTY percent of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s R500 million budget is going on salaries and only 30% on service delivery.

The finance portfolio committee of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature discovered that while Ezemvelo’s salary bill has been increasing, the number of visitors to its resorts and camp sites has been in decline.

Most of the staff employed by the entity are general assistants, cleaners and camp assistants, and committee members questioned what work were they doing if visitor numbers were dropping.

Maggie Govender (ANC) said Ezemvelo’s expenses on staff had gone up while everything else — “your operating and capital expenditure” — had dropped.

Johan Krog (DA) said the organisation was heading for trouble. The staff numbers had dropped by 193 in the last four years, yet the salary bill had gone up by R190 million, he said. Krog said that when he tried to make a booking at a resort he was referred to four different people.

“I thought that I was just unfortunate, but I have since heard of several other people who have experienced similar problems. Unless you get your front office right and effectively run your business your occupancy rate will not increase,” he said.

Roman Liptak (IFP) told the Ezemvelo representatives that the business model they presented was shocking.

“If you were not subsidised you would have long gone out of business,” he said. “You need to look at how private game reserves operate and how to bring your occupancy rates up. You need to do more marketing.”

Liptak said the committee had heard of a whole lot of things that were to be done this financial year, but when they looked at the budget it was a carbon copy of the previous year’s budget.

“The purpose of your organisation is service delivery, yet this is shrinking and if it continues to shrink you will disappear.” Liptak said Ezemvelo needed a good shake-up, more effective marketing and a realistic business plan.

Yesterday’s finance committee meeting was held after the chairperson of the Ezemvelo board, Comfort Ngidi, had failed to turn up at the last meeting. Scott accused him of holding the legislature in contempt. Ngidi said he thought he was meeting his obligation by sending another board member in his place.

Ngidi, a lawyer, asked whether he could in future send another board member in his place. He said he had other obligations and that board members lost a lot when they had to leave their practices for a day and that their subsistence and travel allowance did not cover their costs.

Scott said she was prepared to work around his diary as the board was the accounting authority for Ezemvelo.

She reminded him that previously the Ezemvelo board was made up of people who did not get paid.

“They did it for nothing because they were dedicated to conservation and the betterment of society. I would like to see board renumerations dropped to zero, but this is my personal view,” said Scott.

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