Johannesburg - Sekunjalo Investments was “pleased” that Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had found no evidence of any wrongdoing in connection with a tender to operate the marine patrol vessels of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff), it said yesterday.
“We’ve been vindicated… after two years (of investigation),” chief executive Khalid Abdulla said yesterday.
Almost two years after the controversial tender was referred to Madonsela’s office by DA MP Pieter van Dalen, Madonsela found yesterday that the awarding of the tender by the department had been “improper” – it had not complied with its supply chain management requirements and processes. But in the process of the initial award of the contract to Sekunjalo, she had been “unable to find” improper conduct or maladministration on Daff’s role “with regard to collusive tendering”.
She had, therefore, decided to refer a decision on whether the conduct of the Sekunjalo Marine Service Consortium (SMSC) constituted collusive tendering “to the Competition Commission”. She stated that the relationship between the four Sekunjalo companies in the bid process was “not hidden”. There had been eight bids altogether.
Van Dalen, the DA’s fisheries spokesman, requested that the public protector investigate allegations relating to the improper award of a R800 million tender for fisheries patrol services to SMSC.
He also asked Madonsela to investigate Daff’s alleged failure to readvertise the tender, which meant that the department would be unable to fulfil its mandate to do scientific surveys, anti-poaching patrols and inspections of fishing trawlers for illegal activities.
After the department decided to withdraw Sekunjalo’s status as a preferred bidder for the contract – to run the vessels that carry out the marine resource total allowable catch allocations – the Daff had indeed failed to timeously readvertise the tender.
The final report, entitled “Docked Vessels”, said this failure was partly justified as the department had to embark on a review of the systemic administrative failures that led to the aborted tender process.
The report did find that senior Daff official Joseph Sebelo had scored Sekunjalo’s rival, Smit Amandla Marine, which had run the vessels for 12 years, one out of five on all the adjudication categories. Sekunjalo had been scored five out of five on all counts.
This, said the protector, was “irrational, subjective and biased and thus constituted improper conduct on his part”.
When questions were put to Iqbal Survé, Sekunjalo’s chairman and the owner of Independent Newspapers, he referred questions to Abdulla, who said in a statement: “Sekunjalo Investments Limited is pleased that the public protector found no evidence of any wrongdoing on its part.”
Nevertheless, he said the company disagreed 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”.
The report, however, recommended that President Jacob Zuma should consider “taking disciplinary action against [Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries] Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson for her reckless dealing with state money and services resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.
The minister was “ill advised” on the “abrupt handover” of the tender from incumbent manager Smit Amandla Marine.
Approached for comment, Joemat-Pettersson’s spokesman said the department had not yet received a final report by yesterday evening. - Business Report