PUBLIC Protector Thuli Madonsela has postponed the release of the results of her investigation into the bungled fisheries protection tender by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as she awaits more information from the parties.
The saga around the contract has left SA’s commercial fishing stocks vulnerable since March, when patrols by Smit Amandla Marine were discontinued.
Ms Madonsela said her office was still to speak to Sekunjalo Investment Holdings after it had asked to supply information, and she was awaiting certain information from the department.
The R800m contract was awarded to a consortium led by Sekunjalo late last year after being taken away from Smit Amandla Marine. It was subsequently taken away from Sekunjalo as well.
"We are still getting information about the tender, why it was originally scrapped and the delay in awarding the new tender," she said yesterday.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said in a reply to a parliamentary question last week that the navy was commissioning and training crew for patrol vessels, and the fisheries department was to supply specialised personnel. The initial recruitment process was unsuccessful because the salaries were too low.
Ms Madonsela said her investigation focused on three matters: how the original tender was managed; whether Smit Amandla Marine was victimised after blowing the whistle on the awarding of the tender; and why there was a delay in issuing a new tender.
The fuss around the awarding of the tender to Sekunjalo began early this year when it emerged the investment company already had interests in the fishing industry. The Democratic Alliance’s Pieter v an Dalen and Smit Amandla Marine also alleged the awarding of the tender did not follow proper procedure.
These allegations caused Ms Joemat-Pettersson to claim that Smit Amandla Marine was " guilty of fronting and corruption". S he also admitted that her department had "bungled" the tender.
When asked by Mr v an Dalen if she had proof of her allegations, Ms Joemat-Pettersson referred him to her special adviser Duncan Hindle. An e-mailed reply from Mr Hindle dated March 19 said: "I have discussed this with the minister; she does not have any documents … and what she indicated at the portfolio committee is all that is available."
Mr Hindle declined to comment further, saying: "This is a very complex situation."
Mr van Dalen said at the weekend: "The minister has alleged for some time that the tender was illegally extended and that she has documentary ‘proof’ … but this is all too convenient, given that the minister is the subject of public protector investigations herself."