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Cape Town - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela says she stands by her report on “wasteful and fruitless” expenditure by Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and said the minister’s decision to go to court was baffling.
Madonsela’s report titled “Docked Vessels” dealt with awarding of an R800 million tender to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium to run the fisheries patrol vessels.
Madonsela had found Joemat-Pettersson’s amounted to maladministration, improper and unethical conduct, and recommended President Jacob Zuma take disciplinary action against her for her “reckless dealing with state money”.
Joemat-Pettersson had written to the minister of justice to try to halt the public protector’s investigation.
The findings the minister disagrees with are that last year’s fishing allocations were not made in time, that she caused wasteful expenditure, caused a loss in confidence by the fishing industry, and that fish stocks had been decimated.
Joemat-Pettersson decided to challenge Madonsela’s report in court and said she had served served papers on the public protector on Friday. She wanted the North Gauteng High Court to correct and or set aside Madonsela’s findings.
“The public protector is baffled by the minister’s action but stands by her report,” a statement from Madonsela’s office read on Monday.
“Regarding taking the public protector’s report on review, that is part of the legal process, though on the facts and the regulatory framework, the minister’s action is likely to result in fruitless and wasteful expenditure. While we appreciate that the matter is now before the courts, the public protector wishes to place on record that in terms of the Executive Members Ethic Act, ‘the president must within a reasonable time, but not later than 14 days after receiving a report on a cabinet member, submit a copy of the report and any comments thereon, together with a report on any action taken or to be taken in regard thereto, to the National Assembly’,” the statement read.
DA has entered the legal fray.
DA MP Pieter van Dalen, who lodged the complaint with Madonsela which led to the investigation into the tender to manage the fisheries vessels, described Joemat-Pettersson’s court action as “frivolous”.
“The latest theatrics from the minister are an attempt to prevent parliamentary debate on advocate Madonsela’s findings, avoid further embarrassment and escape liability for her and the department’s actions – all using the public purse.
“It is also no doubt part of the multi-pronged effort by Zuma’s ANC to undermine her office before the release of the Nkandla report,” Van Dalen said.
The DA will seek the court’s permission to be joined in the court proceedings as an “intervening party”.
Van Dalen said Madonsela’s “damning” report on the investigation into the tender could be the subject of a legal review only once it has been tabled and debated in Parliament.
Shaheen Moolla, a fisheries management consultant, has described the minister’s responses as “incomprehensible”.
“The decision to take the public protector to court on the bases made public by the minister appears to be nothing more than a crude attempt to threaten and bully this constitutionally-mandated office,” Moolla said.