Protector accused of jumping the gunComment on this story
Johannesburg - Former agriculture forestry and fisheries minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has accused Public Protector Thuli Madonsela of being being irrational, unreasonable and failing to apply her mind during the investigation of an irregularly awarded R800 million tender in her then department.
And she has justified asking former justice minister Jeff Radebe to stop Madonsela’s investigation, to avoid a duplication of the same probe.
The contract was to manage a fleet of seven vessels on behalf of the department, awarded to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium in November 2011. It was however revoked when Smith Amandla Marine, which had the initial contract, lodged an urgent application in the Western Cape High Court to review and set side the award of the tender.
Joemat-Pettersson, who is now energy minister, approached the Pretoria High Court in March to review and set aside Madonsela’s report, which had been released in December.
Madonsela had found the minister’s conduct and that of her department was improper and constituted maladministration.
She recommended that President Jacob Zuma take disciplinary action against the minister for her reckless dealing with state money and services, resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, loss of confidence in the fisheries industry and alleged decimation of fisheries resources.
Public Protector spokesman Oupa Segalwe said the office had indicated in court papers that they would oppose the matter.
Joemat-Pettersson’s affidavit filed as part of the notice of motion, however, is critical of Madonsela.
The crux of her unhappiness is that Madonsela never interviewed her as part of the investigation, yet made adverse findings against her.
“It is clear from the report itself that I was never involved either in the procurement of the tender which was being investigated or in any manner whatsoever,” said Joemat-Pettersson.
She said it was presumably the reason she was never called by Madonsela to answer questions relating to the probe.
“Surprising however, by implication (Madonsela) found that I was reckless in dealing with state money and services resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure,” she said in the affidavit.
Joemat-Pettersson said Madonsela was not entitled to make such adverse findings against her without affording her an opportunity to be heard.
“The findings never formed the subject of the investigation in that none of the alleged anomalies mentioned have been investigated.
“No facts were placed before Madonsela demonstrating lack of patrols, deterioration of patrol vessels and fruitless and wasteful expenditure. This finding is once again irrational,” Joemat-Pettersson stated.
Despite being informed that the Hawks, the Asset Forfeiture Unit and auditing firm Ernst and Young were all investigating the matter, Madonsela went ahead with her investigation, said Joemat-Pettersson. This was the reason she wrote to then justice minister Radebe asking for his advice on the need for “such investigations to continue simultaneously”.
She said she told him he had no jurisdiction to interfere with Madonsela’s work and should be “careful” but that it was a procedural matter.
“I was confident that he could enquire from both parties as to the desirability of such duplication of investigations,” stated the affidavit.
In her executive summary Madonsela said she considered her letter to Radebe as “constituting interference with the investigation.” But Joemat-Pettersson dismissed this. She also picked fault with the way Madonsela went about the investigation, saying the report did not constitute an investigation.
Madonsela, in her report, said she investigated through perusal of documents, telephonic conversations and interviews with the departmental officials and other individuals.
But according to Joemat-Pettersson, Madonsela should have called witnesses who could give evidence under oath so that parties adversely affected could cross-examine these witnesses and also present their side of the story.
“It is submitted that on this ground alone, the manner in which the investigation was conducted vitiates the validity of the report and consequently the report ought to be set aside.”