A group of more than 150 members of the United Fishers of South Africa met at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries fed up with the department for not meeting their demands. Picture: Zukiswa Minyi African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The Public Service Commission (PSC) has set up a high-profile investigative team to probe allegations of tender fraud and factional wars between ­senior officials in the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) under Minister Senzeni Zokwana.

PSC director-general Dovhani Mamphiswana said the investigations would probe fishing licence tenders that were allegedly irregularly awarded in the industry, especially for abalone.

Mamphiswana said the fishing industry was a cash-generating industry for the economy of the country.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his 2019 State of the Nation Address, also placed emphasis on the role of agriculture in our economy, and the stimulus package in agriculture. South Africa, therefore, needs a DAFF that is fully functional and can support the vision of the president,” Mamphiswana said.

He said the team would be led by Commissioner Selina Nkosi, and would also include highly experienced investigation team members comprising Matome Malatsi, the PSC’s deputy-director-general: Integrity and Anti-Corruption; Rashika Bosch, director: Complaints, Investigative Research and Advisory Services; Vuyo Skweyiya, director: Forensic Investigations; advocate Shukrat Makinde, director: Litigation and Legal Services, and Fanie Hartzenberg, deputy director: Public Administration Investigations.

It is due to begin its investigations on Monday.

Mamphiswana said the PSC, through its chairperson Richard Sizani, advised Zokwana about the probe on Friday.

Mamphiswana said their investigations followed receipt of several complaints involving the DAFF, including the feud involving the department’s director-general, Mike Mlengana, and his deputy, Siphokazi Ndudane.

He said the investigations team would assess the capacity of the DAFF to deliver on its annual performance plan for the 2018/19 financial year, the strategic plan and the medium-term expenditure framework.

It would “assess the management of the career incidents of the members of the senior management service, as well as the efficient, economic and effective use of resources, emanating from complaints in relation to irregular expenditure”, Mamphiswana said.

He said the team would also determine the extent of irregular expenditure incurred by the department over the past three years. It is believed that amounts could run into billions of rand.

Mamphiswana said that the team would establish DAFF cases that had been reported to law enforcement agencies and other independent bodies for investigation and the status of such investigations.

In September last year, the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) lodged complaints against Zokwana with the Public Protector, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. The union also lodged complaints with the Auditor-General and the Hawks against Zokwana.

Zokwana’s spokesperson, Khaye Nkwanyana, said the minister welcomed the PSC’s investigations into his department.

“The attitude of the minister has been to give his full co-operation with any investigations by any arm of government, including the Public Service Commission,” Nkwanyana said.

He said Zokwana particularly welcomed the PSC’s decision to probe the breakdown in the relationship between Mlengana and Ndudane, especially the costly court battles between the two using government funds.

“The minister has led from the front to resolve the long-standing matter involving the director-general and his deputy, and had decided to place Mr Mlengana on suspension, but he was reinstated by the court,” Nkwanyana said.

Nehawu national spokesperson Khaya Xaba said the union also welcomed the probe.

Political Bureau