The Democratic Alliance has called on President Jacob Zuma to take action against Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson following a report by the Public Protector who found irregularities in the awarding of an R800 million fisheries patrol vessel tender.
In early December, Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela released her findings on the handling of the tender process for the crewing and maintenance of the DAFF’s fleet of fisheries patrol vessels. The R800 million tender was initially awarded to the Sekunjalo group.
Madonsela found Joemat-Pettersson guilty of maladministration and improper and unethical conduct in the awarding of the tender. The Public Protector also found her guilty of interfering in the investigations into the matter in violation of section 11(1) of the Public Protector Act.
In terms of this section, read together with section 181 (4) of the Constitution, anyone found guilty of interfering in the Public Protector’s investigations is liable to a fine not exceeding R40 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or both such fine and such imprisonment, Pieter van Dalen, Democratic Alliance Shadow Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries pointed out.
In her report, Madonsela recommends that Zuma take action against Joemat-Pettersson for her “reckless dealing” with state money and services resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Zuma has so far not responded to Madonsela’s recommendations.
Joemat-Pettersson’s department in November 2011 awarded the patrol vessel contract to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium (SMSC) after the contract with Smit Amandla Marine expired. Smit Amandla subsequently complained that its tender documents had been leaked to Sekunjalo while van Dalen in February 2012 asked Madonsela to investigate irregularities in the award of the tender.
Madonsela found that the decision to award the tender to Sekunjalo was improper as tender adjudicator Joe Sebola scored Sekunjalo higher than Smit Amandla, something described as irrational, subjective and biased.
In addition, Madonsela raised the issue of a conflict of interest regarding Sekunjalo operating fisheries patrol vessels whilst also having fishing interests. Furthermore, it was pointed out that of the six bidders who qualified, four were controlled by Sekunjalo. The tender was subsequently cancelled in early 2012 and the DAFF fleet handed over to the South African Navy.
Madonsela’s report pointed a finger at Joemat-Pettersson, saying that she was ill advised on the abrupt handover and her conduct was “improper and constitutes maladministration.” The deterioration of the patrol vessels and the cessation of patrols caused by the handover to the Navy constituted improper conduct and maladministration, the report said.
“I am unable to find improper conduct or maladministration in (the DAFF’s) role with regard to collusive tendering and have decided to refer the decision on whether or not SMSC’s conduct constituted collusive tendering to the Competition Commission,” Madonsela said, giving most of the blame to Joemat-Pettersson and not answering the question of corruption on the part of Sekunjalo.
Sekunjalo said it was “pleased” that Madonsela had found to evidence of wrongdoing on its part, saying the company had been “vindicated”.
The DAFF earlier this week released a letter saying anomalies in Madonsela’s report open her to legal challenge due to unfounded and prejudiced statements.
Meanwhile, van Dalen this week said he had laid formal criminal charges against Joemat-Petterson and had also approached the Chairperson of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), Themba Godi, to investigate Joemat-Pettersson’s financial management of her department. He added that he would approach the Competition Commission for an investigation into possible bid rigging
“It is clear that Minister Joemat-Pettersson cannot be allowed to continue serving in public office after such damning findings by Adv Madonsela. President Zuma is duty-bound to now pull the plug on Minster Joemat-Pettersson’s term of office. It is time for her to go,” van Dalen said.