KZN jazz festival fiasco: ECOD spending lacks oversight

Johann Krog, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Economic Development and Tourism (ECOD)

The Democratic Alliance is alarmed by the revelation that the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development Tourism (ECOD) spent R28million on the rights to a jazz music festival which has never taken place.

According to media reports, the department entered into an agreement in June 2012 to stage the internationally renowned North Sea Jazz Festival in Durban. The concert was initially scheduled for November last year but after months of dispute the department decided to withdraw, only to be told that R16.9 million had already been spent.  The department is now trying to recoup this money.

The DA is disappointed by this turn of events.   At the heart of the problem is a lack of multi-party oversight, with the committee responsible for allocating some R70 million for promotional events in KwaZulu-Natal not being held accountable to the province’s portfolio committee.  This arrangement is unacceptable.

It is the ECOD department’s mandate to stage events that place the province in a favourable light. These events can be high risk.  It comes with the territory.  Unless an event has a previously successful track record – such as the Top Gear festival or Volvo Masters’ Golf tournament, there are no guarantees.   This makes it all the more important that the financial and other credentials of those companies brought in to work in conjunction with the department are thoroughly probed by the ECOD portfolio committee.

The department’s directive is to ensure that KwaZulu-Natal is positioned in a favourable light in a bid to create economic development – and therefore employment.  Right now, there can be no more urgent mandate. This committee cannot simply be left to its’ own devices when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money.  The alternative is massive waste such as this.