Minister withdraws inquiry into Sekunjalo tender
Pieter van Dalen, Shadow Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
25 April 2012
Deputy Director-General of Fisheries Sue Middleton has revealed that Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has reneged on her promise to establish an independent committee to investigate the controversial Sekunjalo tender.
This u-turn came to light in yesterday’s Portfolio Committee Meeting. According to the DDG, Minister Joemat-Pettersson will be asking the President for a more general commission of inquiry into the overall effectiveness of the fisheries department.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) warned at the time that the investigation into Sekunjalo could turn out to be a white-wash designed to exonerate the Department. It turns out that we were being optimistic. Instead of a white-wash, the Department has dispensed with the investigation altogether.
Our suspicions were aroused when Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson declared that the ANC-linked Sekunjalo consortium was innocent of any wrong-doing on the same day she announced the inquiry.
The Minister has now proven beyond all doubt that she is not operating in good faith on the Sekunjalo issue.
The bid adjudication process in the department came under the spotlight when the DA exposed the bias of the committee when awarding the controversial R800 million tender for policing South Africa’s marine resources to the Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium. We questioned both the procurement process and the management of potential conflicts of interest given that the Sekunjalo Consortium would be patrolling marine resources being fished by their own subsidiary company, Premier Fishing.
On 8 March 2012, the DA received notification from the Public Protector that she, at the DA’s request, will be investigating the Sekunjalo tender to “ascertain the process followed to date and the status of the tender process.” This satisfied the Public Protector who then withdrew her investigation pending the outcome of the independent investigation initiated by the Minister.
Now that the Minister has reneged on her promise, we trust that the Public Protector will make good on her initial promise to investigate. I have today written to the Public Protector to brief her on these developments and request that she begins her own investigation without delay.
This tender and its subsequent withdrawal has thrown the Fisheries Department into disarray. It has resulted in a number of job losses amongst those involved in marine patrols and has necessitated an expensive agreement with the navy to handle patrols whilst the Department gets its house in order.
If the Minister is determined to shield what she has called the “innocent” Sekunjalo, the Public Protector must ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted.