Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma should institute disciplinary measures against Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Thursday.
The awarding of an R800 million tender for fisheries patrol services to the Sekunjalo Marine Service Consortium (SMSC) was irregular, Madonsela said in Pretoria.
“The president is to consider taking disciplinary action against the minister for her reckless dealing with state money and services which resulted in fruitless and wasteful expenditure,” she said.
Madonsela’s investigation followed a complaint by Democratic Alliance MP Pieter van Dalen. He asked her to investigate the awarding of the multi-million rand contract to manage the department’s fleet of research and patrol ships.
The tender awarding process allegedly showed evidence of collusive tendering and/or bid rigging by the Sekunjalo consortium.
The department allegedly awarded the contract in 2011 without addressing concerns raised by its own legal counsel and independent auditors.
Madonsela found the awarding of the tender to SMSC was not in compliance with the department’s own supply chain management requirements and that the process was improper.
“Allegations that SMSC’s role as referee and player would create a conflict of interest is substantiated.”
The conduct of the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in awarding the tender to SMSC was improper and amounted to maladministration as the conflict of interest was not eliminated, she concluded.
She referred the decision on whether SMSC'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.
Following the release of Madonsela’s report, Sekunjalo Investments Limited queried the Public Protector’s findings. Chief executive Khalid Abdulla said there had been no conflict of interest.
“The company disagrees with the finding that it had a conflict of interest, but agrees with the Public Protector 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,” Abdulla said in a statement.
“The company had been pilloried in the media, particularly by Pieter van Dalen, who suggested that the consortium was not qualified to do the job and that it had engaged in corrupt practices.”
Abdulla urged those who falsely accused his company of fraud and corruption to withdraw their allegations and apologise.
The department said it noted Madonsela's report, and was disappointed that it had not yet received a copy of the final report.
“The department fully co-operated with the Public Protector throughout the year-long investigation. The department further comprehensively responded to the provisional report.
“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,” it said in a statement.
The opposition Democratic Alliance welcomed Madonsela's findings.
“Tina Joemat-Pettersson unquestionably does not have the qualities and integrity to serve as a minister, let alone as a minister of an important portfolio such as fisheries,” Van Dalen said in a statement.
“She has repeatedly shown contempt for the rule of law and her obligations to the South African fishing industry and public. She must be removed as minister without delay.”