KATHMANDU 8TH OCTOBER
The UIAA holds an annual general meeting in October each year to which member federations like the MCSA are encouraged to send delegates. This General Assembly is preceded by business meetings of the UIAA Board which effectively runs the UIAA Office located in Geneva, and by meetings of the Management Committee which must scrutinize all Board decisions and expenditure for approval by the General Assembly.
All expenses of the 9 member strong Board and a small but effective office staff in Geneva are met by the UIAA. Expenses of the 30 member strong Management Committee are met by their federations. Both Board and Management Committee are elected for a four year term in office. The MCSA delegate is an elected member of the Management Committee to represent the interests of Africa.
Separate from routine administration tasks carried out by the Board and by the Geneva office staff is the real work of the UIAA which serves its member federations through its so-called, Commissions. These are headed by elected Presidents and by full or else corresponding members, all with four year terms in office. The MCSA is well represented in these Commissions, with both full and corresponding members, and is well served by them.
MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS REVEALED IN KATHMANDU
Debate at the Kathmandu G.A. was dominated by charges of poor leadership and financial mismanagement made by the Management Committee after it had exercised its functions in putting the actions of the Board under close scrutiny. These problems had been brewing for some time following a bold marketing strategy embarked on by the Board which was supposed to have been supported by a vigorous fund-raising drive by the Executive Director in the Geneva Office.
Matters came to a head in May 2011 when a damaging audit report was tabled at a routine meeting of the Management Committee in Paris and an internal investigation was launched. (The MCSA delegate did not attend the Paris meeting for reasons of cost but contributed by email.) This internal investigation revealed gross over-expenditure exceeding income, by the Board and especially by the President, Mike Mortimer. This was very often in contravention of standing procedures. Partly because she was unable to control this expenditure, a previous Executive Director had resigned while it was revealed that her successor had been dismissed for alleged incompetence, shortly after he had tabled the damaging audit report. A member of the Board had subsequently resigned in protest over the dismissal.
Following a vote of no-confidence in his leadership by the Management Committee, President Mike Mortimer resigned and was joined by a senior member of his board and by the Treasurer. The President’s decision to resign was strengthened by a heart condition that had been aggravated by stress. The remaining members of the Board received votes of confidence. In accordance with the UIAA constitution, the Vice President has taken over leadership until new elections can be held. These will be at the next G.A. in October 2012.
The General Assembly accepted both the findings of the Management Committee with its charges of poor leadership and financial mismanagement and the resignations. It also accepted long overdue austerity measures proposed by the Management Committee to control over-expenditure and to put the organisation back on a firm financial footing.
SOLID WORK DONE BY THE UIAA COMMISSIONS
In view of the disturbing findings by the Management Committee and of the high profile resignations, it was a relief to receive at the Kathmandu G.A. reports of excellent work continuing to be done by the Commissions to the benefit of its member federations.
The Access Commission, where Jeremy Colenso from the MCSA is a full member, reported on good progress being made to secure access to mountain terrain and to establish an international access data base. The Commission also reported on positive action and support given to the Kasangane Lodge legal challenge in the Magaliesberg.
The Expeditions Commission, which has recently been revived and where Ulrike Kiefer has been nominated as our representative, reported on solid progress being made in simplifying the permit procedures for climbing in the Himalayas and Karakorum mountains.
The Ice Climbing Commission, which is the only competitive element in the UIAA, together with the required Drug Commission, reported on good progress towards being accepted by the Olympic movement.
The Medical Commission, where the MCSA wishes to nominate a corresponding member, continues to do excellent work both on high altitude medicine and on basic medical advice for the ordinary climber and hiker. (See the UIAA web page for useful advice.)
The Mountain Protection Commission, where Maretha Alant is our corresponding member, reported on good progress made in creating a Mountain Protection Label which can be awarded to trekking and climbing companies who follow best-practice procedures as well as direct support to the Kasangane Lodge appeal process.
The Safety Commission, with Alan Jarvis as our full member, is doing splendid work in the testing of climbing equipment and the UIAA stamp on such items is the industry standard. Royalties charged are a major source of income for the UIAA. A warning was given of surprise internal corrosion that had been found on hangers and bolts used in a warm marine environment which climbers should become aware of.
The Training Standards Commission is not one where the MCSA is very active but it is significant that most new applications for membership seem to be coming from federations wishing to access these standards for the certification of mountain guides.
The Youth Commission, with Jenny Paterson as a corresponding member, is particularly active and an area where MCSA involvement has long been prominent. Very complimentary remarks were made about our recent Youth Summit in the Drakensberg and our S.A. team’s participation in an international youth sport-climbing competition.
Thanks to the diligence of the Management Committee, wasteful expenditure at the UIAA central office has now been curbed. MCSA members can feel confident that their financial contribution to the organisation is not going to waste and that there are solid benefits to be obtained from continued membership, especially in the work and services offered by the UIAA Commissions. (See the UIAA web page for useful information and for regular updates of international mountain related news.)
Dave Jones – MCSA President