The portfolio committee on economic development travelled all over Joe Gqabi District recently visiting projects supported by the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism. Sadly, most of the projects were not running.
One of them is the Aliwal Spa a prime example of how public funds seem to disappear.
R26.4 million has been spent over the last six years with a further R8.6 million committed from the national Department of Tourism and R575 000 from the East Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), yet it is still not operational.
This was one of the Eastern Cape’s top tourist attractions with a complex of baths, playgrounds, picnic sights, caravan sites and five open air pools — not to mention the surrounding accommodation. Over 300 000 people a year used to visit this spa and it was sustainable even though it was subsidised. This created much needed employment and revenue for the people of Aliwal-North.
We were told that the Joe Gqabi Development Agency (Jogeda) has taken over and called for expression of interest for the commercialisation of the Aliwal Spa.
Jogeda had received R5.1 million from Joe Gqabi, R260 000 from Elundini Municipality and R292 000 from Senqu Municipality this financial year, with a further R6 million pledged from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) for 2014-2016.
The question is where has all the money gone? Our committee could not see those figures having been spent at the spa. No expressions of interest in the spa have been received by Jogeda.
It must be pointed out that no investor is going to invest in the Aliwal Spa when the local municipality has been issued with an adverse opinion. Who is going to invest in a municipality that cannot balance its books?
This is a classic case of a failed accountability and must be investigated with urgency. The DA will continue to pursue this matter to ascertain what the money has been spent on, who is accountable and what remedial steps there are.