Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson on Thursday vowed to root out any corruption that might exist in the troubled Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) unit.
Briefing reporters at Parliament ahead of debate on her department's budget in the National Assembly, she said the results of an investigation into MCM would indicate whether a commission of inquiry was necessary.
“We will be investigating the MCM unit of our department broadly. The outcome of that investigation will indicate whether a committee or a commission will be justified,” she told reporters.
The investigation would be thorough.
“If we need to suspend people, we will do so. We are here to protect taxpayers' money; we are fighting corruption in fisheries.
“We will not leave any stone unturned until we get to the bottom of what is happening in fisheries,” she said.
Last month, Joemat-Pettersson announced there would be an investigation following the withdrawal of a controversial tender that was supposedly won by a division of JSE-listed company Sekunjalo, for manning and maintaining seven fisheries vessels.
Speaking in the House later on Thursday, she told MPs her department would ask the Special Investigating Unit to look into all tenders awarded by MCM.
“Regrettably, following extensive allegations of maladministration in the fisheries branch, and after extensive consultations with the department of justice and constitutional development and the presidency, we will be requesting the Special Investigating Unit to look into all tenders awarded by the branch.”
She stressed the investigation would involve “all tenders, and not just a specific tender”.
This was a “preparatory step” towards a commission of inquiry.
The appointment of a commission of inquiry was up to President Jacob Zuma, and would depend on the outcome of the investigation.
Joemat-Pettersson said the SA Navy would manage the running of the unit's four patrol and three research vessels for the next 12
months, “while we consider our various options regarding the long term management of these vessels”.
On the amount of abalone confiscated by the department last year and sold, agriculture director-general Langa Zita told reporters this amounted to 22.5 tons.
The total had been sold for R45 million, he said. - Sapa