22 June 2005

CapeNature seeking help to clear debt of R20m

CapeNature has asked the provincial legislature's community development committee for at least R20-million to bail it out of the red.

The nature conservation authority has experienced severe cash-flow problems and earlier this year owed R6,6-million to its creditors.

Now it has paid all its trade creditors, except the government garage for transport.

Chief executive David Daitz met MPLs on Monday to tell them how CapeNature got into the "mess" and to ask for an increase in its current funding of R63,7-million from the provincial environmental affairs and development planning department.

CapeNature has been working on a "three-legged pot" system, he explained, to raise the extra R50-million it needed annually. An expected R15-million would come from grants and donors, R15-million from public-private partnerships and R20-million from the province.

But after five years it had received only R34-million from grants and donors. "This was not a terrible period - it was just less than what we wanted," he said.

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It then received a three-year, R23-million donation from the Cape Action Plan for the Environment (Cape) "and we are currently bringing in R30-million a year". Daitz said CapeNature had tried to be too independent, the timing of the "three-legged pot" strategy was out, and project management fees were too much of a burden.

Project funding money could only be used for what was stipulated in the contract, said Daitz. "When we approach a donor for funds for a project and they give us R10-million, they only give us the money for the project, but don't include the costs for managing the project, so we have to use money from our core fund."

No public-private partnership contracts had been signed since August 2001.

"We are not yet out of the woods, but we have turned a corner. There are still months to go before it's all behind us."

"Very drastic action needs to be taken. We need everyone's co-operation, and everyone's ideas are valuable."

"We have to rescue our service. We can't sit on our hands."

Daitz and some executive members have taken a voluntary 5 percent pay cut while a senior member is taking a 4 percent cut from July to December.

Staff will also feel the brunt by not getting a salary increase soon, but Daitz said that may change later in the year. "They are aware they will not get an increase and, while some are unhappy about it, there are those who understand. I will also be meeting trade unions, but I don't think they will be happy about it."

Asked by committee member Grant Hoskin how much CapeNature wanted, Daitz said: "The minimum requirement increase would be R20-million."

"We will have to do a lot to get the organisation out of this crisis. We have to build up core funding."

Source: www.iol.co.za


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