Johannesburg - The portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries has called for its own investigation into the terms and delivery of the contractual obligation by Smit Amandla Marine, which was contracted to manage and maintain the state’s marine research and patrol vessels for over a decade.
Smit Amandla Marine is already being investigated for corruption relating to the awarding of the tender to operate a fleet of six ships, used to help determine the total allowable fishing catches and keep poaching in check.
An Ernst & Young preliminary forensic report last year confirmed substantial evidence of irregular contracts.
But the portfolio committee yesterday prompted an investigation into whether the company did deliver the services it was contracted for as the vessels were in a state of disrepair.
The committee had not seen any contractual agreement between the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Smit Amandla Marine and committee chairwoman Lulu Johnson said it had been told by the department that the contract had no service agreement.
“My view is that we get a full blown investigation on Smit Amandla Marine because now the vessels are in serious disrepair. As to why that is the case, we are told of all sorts of stories.
“Hence the government is confronted with the situation where it has to repair the vessels. But Smit Amandla Marine had been the company assigned to manage and maintain those vessels for all those 12 years,” Johnson said.
The committee said in the past two weeks, two ships had broken down at sea; one off KwaZulu-Natal and another one off the Western Cape. The committee wants the investigation to detail the state of the vessels when they were transferred to fisheries from the Department of Environmental Affairs.
“As for the condition in which they got those vessels, that should be part of the report. As to the contractual agreement, we don’t even know those agreements. As to how invoicing has been taking place… we’d really wish to have all of that information as part of the full investigation,” Johnson said.
Last week the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries told the same committee that only two of the six patrol vessels were ready to go to sea.
The other four were being repaired by the state, two of them scheduled to return to operation towards the end of this week after completing the compulsory SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) course to attain seaworthiness certificates.
But yesterday there was no report on the progress of the Samsa seaworthiness accreditation. The ships have been berthed at Simon’s Town for the past year.
“We’ve been told since last year ‘next month’ and then ‘two months’, so we don’t know outside the reports we are getting from the department what the current state is of these boats,” said Annette Steyn, the DA’s spokeswoman on agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
She suggested that the committee should find an independent party to conduct the investigation and compile the report because the committee no longer trusted the department’s reports. - Business Report