Johannesburg - The public protector’s report titled “Docked Vessels”, which found in December last year that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had awarded an R800 million tender to manage the state’s fishery vessels to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium improperly, is going to court for review.

Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said yesterday that she intended to challenge the report in the North Gauteng High Court as she disagreed with public protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings that she was guilty of improper conduct and maladministration.

Joemat-Pettersson said her department had engaged with Madonsela in January about reviewing and “correcting” the findings but the public protector had said she could not change her recommendations. This was the reason for the minister’s legal approach.

“I do not consider this an efficient way to solve the problem. We wrote to the public protector, [who] indicated that her investigation had been completed and we only have recourse to the president and the court.”

Joemat-Pettersson did not want to discuss her interactions with the president and refused to engage on other pending issues within her department, such as what happens to the marine patrols in the interim.

Madonsela recommended that President Jacob Zuma consider taking disciplinary action against Joemat-Pettersson for maladministration on the Sekunjalo tender, and because her handling of the termination of Smit Amandla’s contract at its expiry resulted in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The minister said the public protector had provided no evidence of wasteful expenditure. She noted that the auditor-general’s unqualified opinion on the department’s financial statements confirmed there was no such expenditure.

“The reason for disciplinary action was that there had been a ‘loss of confidence in the fishing industry’. There is no evidence in the investigation or the body of the report,” the minister said in her statement.

There was no evidence for all other reasons cited as a basis for disciplinary action, she added.

The public protector’s office said a statement would be issued today.

Sekunjalo Independent Media, which controls Business Report, and Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium are part of the Sekunjalo group. - Business Report