The DA has called on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to immediately put the brakes on what it believes is a “fishy” tender for a contract – valued at nearly R1 billion – to combat illegal fishing along SA coastlines.
The tender was awarded late last year to a consortium headed up by black empowerment firm Sekunjalo, which has long-established links to the government.
The DA call came after the party gained access to a forensic audit into the Sekunjalo tender, which was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and completed in October.
Joemat-Pettersson announced the five-year deal with the Sekunjalo-led consortium in November, despite the fact that a due diligence process had not been concluded.
DA spokesman on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Pieter van Dalen, said the report exposed significant irregularities in how the contract was awarded.
“The contract was awarded even though a Sekunjalo subsidiary, Premier Fishing, has fishing rights for SA waters – a clear conflict of interest.
“Sekunjalo has effectively entered into an R800 million contract with the state to be both the player and referee in South African waters,” he said.
SA has a R2bn-a-year fishing industry.
Premier Fishing has interests in a number of fisheries.
Sekunjalo chairman Iqbal Survé, who is also a director of Premier Fishing, reportedly travels abroad regularly as part of business delegations accompanying President Jacob Zuma and government ministers.
The audit raised questions about the objectivity and voting behaviour of at least two members of the evaluation committee tasked with scoring the various tender applicants.
It also recommended that the conflict of interest be investigated by the Marine Living Resources Fund, which finances the operations of Marine and Coastal management. This was never done.
Van Dalen on Monday called on Joemat-Pettersson to show her commitment to good governance by opening the process followed in awarding the tender to public scrutiny.
He said he would write to her urging her to release the report and declare the tender process invalid.
The key findings of the forensic report in the DA’s possession are:
* There was no evidence that the bid adjudication committee even considered the major conflict of interest in awarding a contract to Sekunjalo. The qualifications of the people on the committee also could not be verified.
* The report acknowledges the apparent conflict of interest, repeatedly raised by the DA and other stakeholders. Premier Fishing, as a subsidiary of the Sekunjalo Consortium, has existing fishing rights awarded to it by the state.
* Premier Fishing, Premier Fishing Consortium and Sekunjalo Marine Services all submitted bids for the same tender, citing one common annual report as their supporting documentation.
Van Dalen submitted a PAIA application to see the tender documentation referred to in the audit report and the DA has submitted parliamentary questions on the matter.
“It is becoming increasingly apparent that the fisheries branch of the Department of Agriculture and Minister Joemat-Pettersson have acted in a way that puts our marine resources, and the people who make their livelihoods out of it, at risk,” said Van Dalen.
The Department spokespersons could not be reached for comment.
* In December, Smit Amandla, the local subsidiary of the Dutch-based multinational ship-handling group Smit, served a notice of motion on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries seeking to interdict it from awarding the tender to a consortium led by Sekunjalo. Smit Amandla has operated the tender to manage and maintain the country’s marine research and fisheries patrol vessels for the past 10 years and was unsuccessful in its bid to have it extended for a further five years.