The Sekunjalo Consortium, which had been the preferred bidder for a R800 million tender to police South Africa’s marine resources for five years, has been dropped from the tender process. It is not clear whether the venture voluntarily withdrew or the government withdrew it as both sides claim to have initiated the move.
The consortium included Sekunjalo Industrial Holdings (SIH) and ship-building company KND and the tender provided for the conduct of technical maintenance as well as infrastructure and personnel support to eight state-owned research and patrol vessels used for research, inspections of fishing trawlers and anti-poaching efforts off the South African coast. THe ships include the offshore patrol vessel Sarah Baartman and the three inshore patrol vessels, the Victoria Mkhize, the Lilian Ngoyi and the Ruth First.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s spokesman, Selby Bokaba, confirmed on Friday that the department had withdrawn Sekunjalo’s preferred bidder status on Thursday, the Business Report newspaper writes. On the other hand, Sekunjalo, headed by billionaire Iqbal Survé, issued a JSE announcement early on Friday noting that it had withdrawn its tender.
Sekunjalo was scathing in the announcement of the department’s role, saying it had become embroiled “regrettably as an innocent third party” in review proceedings in the Western Cape High Court brought by Smit Amandla Marine, which has held the contract since 1994 and questioned the tender procedures, Business Report added.
Sekunjalo spokesman Kaveer Bharath emphasised that it was Sekunjalo that had requested that it be removed as preferred bidder in a letter to the deputy director-general of the department. “We requested that the tender be cancelled as we saw this as the most prudent way to go forward.” It had also decided not to oppose the court review proceedings. Sekunjalo believed that the matter could be dragged out indefinitely in court. “It is evident from the papers in those proceedings that the challenges to the award of the tender to our consortium all relate to the tendering processes and procedures followed by the department,” said the announcement.
But Sekunjalo slammed the media for its coverage of the court proceedings brought by Smit Amandla Marine. The current provider said it could not comment at this point but it had argued that Premier Fishing, which is a subsidiary of Sekunjalo, presented a conflict of interest because Sekunjalo would be both marine policeman and fisherman, the paper said.
In the JSE announcement Sekunjalo said: “Our consortium, its participants and its executives have been subjected to a slanderous and misguided media attack, and we have remained silent in the face of such attack as the review proceedings are sub judice.
“At this juncture, we must point out that there can be no doubt that we followed the letter of the law and all due processes in the completion of our tender submission, and while we have decided not to oppose the aforementioned review proceedings on the basis that it relates essentially to a dispute between the department and the current service provider… Our decision is under no circumstances to be construed as an acknowledgement or acceptance that the unfounded grounds of review raised in such proceedings are valid or correct.”
Moneyweb adds that Sekunjalo told the department – by letter and through the JSE announcement – that documentation presented in court by Smit Amandla has “highlighted the completely inappropriate tender provisions in relation to an endeavour on the part of the department to ensure that the tender would be awarded to the most empowered party. “You will certainly understand our unhappiness in participating in a tender process which, it is now revealed, only one party could ever have satisfied.”
Sekunjalo recommended that the tender be reissued. “We will consider whether we participate in any such future tender process after considering the terms of the tender invitation.” While castigating the department for its skewed tender process, Sekunjalo also accused the DAFF of stalling transformation. This was because the tender specifically called for experience in the relevant sector. This does not consider the fact that it is impossible for any new empowerment venture to have acquired those skills, given the fact that they were historically denied access to the sector. Sekunjalo has no specific experience, but it maintains its own fishing boats as well as those of some international companies, Moneyweb said. Other skills could be acquired through the taking over of assets and employees, it said. “Government will have to decide whether it wishes to transform the industry, and in particular its service providers, or not. If it wishes to retain the historical position then clearly it is manifestly unfair to continue to put out the same tenders, because in truth there is no competitive tender in process that can take place.”
Smit Amandla Marine spokeswoman Claire Gomes said it had been notified by the state attorney that the department had revoked the award. “No clarification was provided and, at this time, Smit Amandla Marine has no further comment.”
Smit Amandla Marine, which is also a black empowered company but is headquartered in Holland, holds the management contract until the end of March. Bokaba could not say whether it would continue to manage the contract after the expiry date.
DA fisheries spokesman Pieter van Dalen said the award to Sekunjalo in November “looked fishy “.
Van Dalen says the withdrawal of the tender “must not divert from the serious questions that now have to be asked about the bid adjudication process in the department.”