Pietermaritzburg - Finance portfolio committee members in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature this week voiced their concern at the financial performance of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
The conservation body, which appeared before the committee this week, has been in the news following the confusion over the aborted resignation of its chief executive and criticism over the appointment of some board members.
DA committee member Francois Rogers said: “Every year they come before us and every year they are disappointing. If this was my business I would declare it insolvent, this is run like a spaza shop.
“There are too many problems highlighted, there is inadequate staffing, there are changes in the board, this all seems like there are systematic political problems."
Presenting its 2016/17 financial results, the organisation painted a dire financial picture, saying it had problems attracting people to its resorts and therefore had generated less revenue than expected.
It was also revealed that the organisation, which has a budget of more than R1 billion, had underspent it by around R162 million.
“This institution is not going to survive; there is a lot of money that is coming from the public because people care about the environment,” said committee member Maggie Govender.
The committee also heard yesterday that the entity had underspent on salaries by close to R20m as it had critical staff vacancies. And they had also underspent by millions on infrastructure.
“Among the positions vacant are critical positions like those of field rangers,” said Govender.
The committee members said the entity needed to generate its internal revenue.
The entity’s senior management defended themselves, saying the under-spending on compensation of employees was due to the fact that there was a process to rationalise entities under the Department of Economic Development, with which they did not want to interfere.
The chairperson of the Ezemvelo Board, Zwile Zulu, said they were working hard to turn the entity around. “Rome was not built in a day.”
He said when the new board took over, they had encountered numerous anomalies they were trying to fix, including that the entity was using an organogram that had not been passed.
“There were challenges with the supply chain management process, that person was reporting directly to the chief executive and their qualifications were questionable.”
MEC for the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Sihle Zikalala said the process of rationalising the entities was going ahead and the cabinet should make a decision by next month.