Top Bay official quits after 30 years to move to Kouga

ONE FOR THE ROAD: Selwyn Thys relaxes with a cup of coffee in Port Elizabeth yesterday. He is leaving the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality after 30 years to take up a post at the Kouga Local Municipality.Picture: MIKE HOLMES
ONE FOR THE ROAD: Selwyn Thys relaxes with a cup of coffee in Port Elizabeth yesterday. He is leaving the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality after 30 years to take up a post at the Kouga Local Municipality.Picture: MIKE HOLMES

Thys’s career takes unexpected turn

ON January 1 1985, he started working at the then Port Elizabeth Municipality as an accounting graduate trainee, hoping to gather enough knowledge and experience to run the then proposed Northern Areas municipality.

Picture: MIKE HOLMESONE FOR THE ROAD: Selwyn Thys relaxes with a cup of coffee in Port Elizabeth yesterday. He is leaving the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality after 30 years to take up a post at the Kouga Local MunicipalityMore than 30 years later, one of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s most experienced bean counters, Selwyn Thys, 52, is saying goodbye to the metro to take over the financial reins of the Kouga Local Municipality.

Six weeks after the Kouga council approved his appointment as chief financial officer, Local Government MEC Fikile Xasa finally gave him the thumbs up on Thursday – the day Thys handed in his resignation letter.

“I must say, it was quite an emotional moment for me. The metro was my first employer,” Thys said.

“I always thought I would end my career at this municipality. I did not think I would take this detour, but we don’t know what the future holds.”

At the age of 21, Thys was a graduate trainee and soon moved up the ranks to become an accountant, senior accountant and in 1994 chief accountant.

In 1997, he was moved to the audit services department, which he managed for two years, before he was promoted to deputy city treasurer. Thys held the position until the metro was amalgamated and the staff structures were reworked in 2003, after which he was appointed director of budget and financial accounting.

Since then, his main responsibility has been to prepare and drive the metro’s budget until council adoption and to ensure it did not impact negatively on the cty’s financial sustainability.

He has also been responsible for preparing the city’s financial statements and interacting with the auditorgeneral about matters arising out of the audits.

Thys applied for the position of chief financial officer (CFO) at the Bay municipality in 2013 and although he was shortlisted, his application was unsuccessful and the current CFO, Trevor Harper, was appointed instead.

Asked if that played a role in his decision to find another job, Thys said: “There is a general view from quite a number of people that I should’ve been at that [CFO] level at this [Bay] municipality some time ago already.

“But I was born in Jeffreys Bay and I always thought it would be nice to end my career there if the opportunity presented itself.

“I always had that wish that things might end up that way, so when the advert was out, I applied.

“It’s a seven-year contract, which takes me nicely to retirement age. That’s what drove my decision.”

Over the past six years, the municipality has been plagued by political and administrative instability, which has seen several mayors, municipal managers and senior officials come and go.

The city was without a CFO for about two years between 2012 and 2014 and Thys had to steer the ship during that turbulent period.

This, according to Thys, prepared him for any hiccups ahead in his new job.

“One of the highlights in my time in the metro was being part of the team that achieved four consecutive unqualified audits from the 2007-08 financial year. I would definitely regard that as a highlight at a professional level.”

What has gone wrong with the institution since then?

“I think it’s a lack of strong leadership, both politically and administratively, to take decisions that are in the interests of the institution and residents at large.

“That has been lacking in the metro in the last number of years.

“I was not always popular, but that was never important to me . . . It was about doing what was in the interests of the institution. Even if it meant that it might have impacted on my career goal opportunities.

“I know sometimes I frustrated the plans of some politicians when I believed that those plans were not in the interests of the municipality.”

-Rochelle de Kock

 

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