Public Protector lays down law

Melanie Gosling

Environment Writer

FINDINGS: Public Protector Thuli Madonsela briefs the media on the findings of her investigative report into Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson and former minister of communications Dina Pule.Photo: Phill Magakoe. Credit: INL SA

THE public protector has found Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat- Pettersson guilty of maladministration, improper and unethical conduct in the irregular awarding of an R800-million tender to the Sekunjalo consortium to manage the state’s fishery vessels.

In a report released yesterday Public Protector Thuli Madonsela recommended that President Jacob Zuma take disciplinary action against Joemat-Pettersson for her “reckless dealing with state money and services, resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, loss of confidence in the fisheries industry in South Africa, alleged decimation of fisheries resources in South Africa and delayed quota allocations due to lack of appropriate research”.

She has instructed the director-general in the Presidency to come up with a plan, within 30 days, of how this “remedial action” would be carried out.

Madonsela’s investigation followed a complaint by DA MP Pieter van Dalen who asked her to probe the awarding to the Sekunjalo consortium of the multimillion-rand contract to manage the department’s fleet of research and patrol ships.

The public protector said yesterday Joemat-Pettersson had interfered with her investigation by trying to get Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to call off the investigation which she deemed “unnecessary” as the Sekunjalo contract had already been withdrawn.

Van Dalen also asked the public protector to investigate the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ failure to re-advertise the tender to run the fishery vessels – which had in the meantime been put under the management of the SA Navy – as this meant that the department was unable to carry out its work of anti-poaching patrols and fisheries research, crucial for establishing fish quotas.

The public protector found that:

lJoemat-Pettersson’s abrupt handover of the vessel

management from Smit-Amandla to the SA Navy was ill-advised, improper and constituted maladministration.

Madonsela referred the decision on whether Sekunjalo’s conduct constituted collusive tendering to the Competition Commission. She urged Joemat-Pettersson to ensure that the already-advertised tender for the services of a ship manager for crewing, management and maintenance of the research and fisheries vessels was finalised and the contract awarded within 60 days.

Joemat-Pettersson’s spokeswoman, Palesa Mokomele, said yesterday the department had not received a copy of the final report and “we remain keen to receive it”.

“While the finalisation of the investigation is welcome, it is hoped that the response of the minister and the department, which highlighted inaccuracies, incorrect information and bias, will be reflected in the final report,” Mokomele said.

Sekunjalo Investments Limited said yesterday it was pleased that the public protector had found no evidence of any wrongdoing on its part: “The company disagrees with the finding that it had a conflict of interest, but agrees that there had never been any concealment by the company of the relationship between the four bidders, Sekunjalo, Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium, Premier Fishing and the Premier Fishing Consortium.”