Plot thickens over marine patrol bid

By Time of article published Mar 16, 2012

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Donwald Pressly

Allegations that the Smit Amandla Marine tender awarded seven years ago was irregular turned into a political football match yesterday.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Department director-general Langa Zita said there were grounds to investigate whether corruption charges should be laid against Smit Amandla Marine – which he called Smit Pentow Marine, a previous trading name.

He said that when the tender to police South Africa’s marine resources was awarded it was not done in a transparent manner, and pointed to the awarding without an open process by the then department of environmental affairs and tourism.

At the time, that ministry was run by the current Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, whose former political responsibilities included the management and policing of fishing and the allocation of allowable catches.

Approached for comment, Van Schalkwyk’s spokeswoman, Melene Rossouw, said: “Ministers do not play and should not play a role in tenders. It is the full and final responsibility of the accounting officer in a department.”

The accounting officer is the director-general.

But current Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson raised the issue of the Smit Amandla tender at the National Assembly’s committee for her portfolio on Tuesday. She alleged that the tender had been awarded without the proper processes being followed and had not been open.

Zita took the extraordinary action of suggesting that police should investigate whether corruption charges could be laid against Smit Amandla, indicating that he had decided to do so after listening to his minister, Joemat-Pettersson, address the committee.

Time is running out for the department now as the Smit Amandla tender comes to an end on March 31. It means South Africa’s marine resources will not be policed. The preferred bidder, Sekunjalo, withdrew after Smit Amandla took it to court, arguing that the marine patrolling function could not be carried out by a company that had a fishing business within its ranks.

Now Zita has questioned Smit Amandla for having a fishing company, “Dudula Fishing”, in its ranks at the time its tender was renewed in 2005.

Smit Amandla spokeswoman Clare Gomes said yesterday that neither Smit Amandla nor any associated companies nor joint venture partners “past or present” had a commercial interest in the fishing sector.

“Dudula Fishing” did not exist, she insisted. Smit Amandla Marine was formerly known as Smit Dudula Marine, a joint venture between Smit Marine South Africa and Dudula Shipping Company.

Sekunjalo spokeswoman Cherie Hendricks welcomed the legal action against its competitor yesterday.

In a Securities Exchange News Service announcement it said: “Sekunjalo has been subjected to a co-ordinated, concentrated and slanderous media campaign designed to damage the company’s reputation and to force the department to extend the contract of the losing bidder by a further six to nine months after it has been extended without an open tender process for the last seven years.” page 2

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