Big board costs KZN heritage agencyComment on this story
Durban - The expenses of the provincial heritage agency Amafa KZN’s board have almost tripled, following the doubling of the number of members and amid inflated attendance fees and travel costs.
After taking office in June, most board members voted to double their attendance fees and approached the provincial Treasury halfway through the financial year to cover the growing costs.
It is understood that long-serving board member Arthur Konigkramer walked out over the issue.
Konigkramer confirmed he was no longer at Amafa, but did not wish to comment.
In response to questions, the heritage agency issued a statement confirming it had asked for the budget for attendance fees and travel expenses to be increased from the initial allocation of R100 000 to R340 000 this year.
The increase was also intended to cover some travel expenses for staff, but the agency did not say how much was for board members.
Amafa applied for an undisclosed sum from the provincial Treasury for infrastructure development and a new “turnaround strategy”.
Although the infrastructure application was approved, the turnaround funding application was rejected, it said.
Before the 12 members were appointed last year, the board had limped along with six members who frequently battled to scrape together a quorum.
Although it could be expected that the budget for attendance fees would double because the number of board members had doubled, the attendance fees and travel costs have also doubled.
Board members used to receive a R750 daily attendance allowance.
The new board members are paid R1 648.
The former Amafa council chairman received a daily attendance fee of R1 200.
The new allowance for the chairman and the committee chairmen is R2 880.
While past council members and staff acknowledge the attendance fees seemed “frugal” in comparison with remuneration levels for other boards, the apparent drive to increase the allowances has raised fears that normal operational costs will be raided in an agency that has been complaining for several years about underfunding.
“This money could have been used to save a few monuments, crumbling historical buildings – or to hire more staff,” complained a source close to Amafa.
“Instead there seems to be a preoccupation with remuneration by some board members.”
Amafa, which has a permanent staff of nearly 100, is responsible for the conservation and maintenance of numerous battlegrounds, buildings and historical or cultural landmarks such as Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, the Emakhosini Valley, the Pietermaritzburg railway station, religious sites and burial sites.
It is also responsible for heritage and archaeological surveys and up to 1 000 permit applications a year for demolition or alterations to buildings more than 60 years old.
It is understood the provincial Treasury sent a request to the national Treasury last month for guidance on whether remuneration levels could be increased.
Amafa said it was aware of the application.
“This request was not based specifically on Amafa, however. It was for all public entities and government departments.
“This was a Treasury initiative as they want to standardise remuneration paid to all the board members in the province,” Amafa said.
However, this contradicted Goolam Manack, the chief director of the public utilities governance unit at the national Treasury.
Manack said his directorate had been asked for guidance on remuneration for Amafa board members on February 4.
Asked whether this request applied to Amafa remuneration alone or to all boards, Manack said he understood it related solely to Amafa.
Amafa did not respond to queries on whether all 12 of the board members supported further remuneration hikes.