PARTY

I'll be laying criminal charges against Joemat-Pettersson - Pieter van Dalen

DA MP says Public Protector found that minister attempted to interfere in her investigations

DA to lay criminal charges against Tina Joemat-Pettersson

The DA welcomes the findings of Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, on the maladministration, improper and unethical conduct by the Fisheries Minster Tina Joemat-Pettersson in the awarding of the R800 million fisheries patrol tender.

This is the second time Minister Joemat-Pettersson has been found guilty of an offence by the Public Protector. 

The last time she escaped with a slap on the wrist. The DA will make sure that this will not happen again.

Amongst other findings, Advocate Madonsela has found that Minster Joemat-Pettersson violated section 11(1) of the Public Protector Act by interfering in her investigation.

In terms of this section, read together with section 181 (4) of the Constitution, anyone found  guilty of interfering in the Public Protector's investigations is liable to a fine not exceeding R40 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or both such fine and such imprisonment. 

I will therefore be laying criminal charges to this effect. This time, Minister Joemat-Pettersson would do well not to interfere.

Background:

I requested this investigation on the 19th of February last year.

The investigation was related to the awarding of a tender to the Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium to the value of R800 million. I also requested the Public Protector to probe the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' (DAFF) subsequent failure to re-advertise the tender which meant that it was unable to fulfil its mandate to carry out specific surveys, anti-poaching patrols and inspections of fishing vessels for possible illegal activities. 

After I raised other key concerns with the Public Protector, an investigation was launched.

Findings:

The Public Protector made damning findings on the role the Minster Joemat-Petterson in the irregular awarding of the R800 million tender to Sekunjalo.

It is important to note however that one crucial finding that Advocate Madonsela sets out in her report was that Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson made a last minute attempt to call on the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Radebe, to put a stop to the investigation.

In her report, the Public Protector finds that the attempt to shut down the investigation by the Minister amounts to conduct constituting interference with an investigation and an attempt to incite the Minister of Justice to undermine the independence of two constitutional bodies. 

This conduct - according to Advocate Madonsela - is a violation of section 181(4) of the Constitution and constitutes unethical conduct under the Executive Members Ethics Act and conduct in violation of section 11(1) of the Public Protector Act. This latter violation further constitutes a criminal offence under the Public Protector Act.

The attempt by the Minister to shut down the investigation while simultaneously undermining the independence of the Office of the Public Protector is evidence enough to show that Minister Joemat-Pettersson had a lot to hide and tried to sweep her unethical behaviour under the carpet as she has been accustomed to doing for so long in her department. 

Minister Joemat-Pettersson is not fit to continue to hold office based on this finding alone.

The DA is pleased that the Public Protector did not agree to such an interference as R800 million's worth of public funds were involved and as public representatives, we have a responsibility to protect and ensure that these funds are put to the best use possible.

Other key findings made by the Advocate Madonsela pertain to -

DAFF's irregular awarding of the R800 million tender for the crewing, management and maintenance of the research and fisheries patrol services and whether this was an act of maladministration

Advocate Madonsela found that the awarding of the R800 million tender to Sekunjalo was not in compliance with DAFF's Supply Chain Management requirements and was therefore improper. The Public Protector found that the contract constituted an act of maladministration in this regard. 

Relating to Mr Joseph Sebola's scoring of Sekunjalo 5/5 on everything (in the bid process) with no relevant experience in conducting the exact service in question was suspicious and irregular

Mr Joseph Sebola's conduct was found to constitute improper conduct. Mr Sebola's behaviour in this regard was found to be unreasonable and biased.

Relating to the matter on collusive tendering

While the Public Protector found that there appears to not have been any collusive tendering in the process. She has recommended that this matter be sent directly to the Competition Commission. 

Relating to the failure of the Department to re-advertise the tender after it had been withdrawn

While the Public Protector found that the failure to re-advertise the tender after it was withdrawn was partially justifiable as it needed to identify and address the problems in the initial process, she found that the time taken to address these issues was "unduly long". Furthermore, that delay included DAFF's failure to provide timely information, preventing the expeditious conclusion of the investigation.

Relating to whether DAFF's irregular termination of services by ignoring a three month hand-over period and awarding the service to the SA Navy which did not have necessary competences, did not constitute improper conduct and maladministration

At the time, Smit Amandla made a request for intervention to stop the Minister from abruptly terminating its contract on a one month notice instead of the three months' notice provided for in the contract that had since ended. This was because the one months' notice period was impractical. However the Minister refused this request. This led to the vessels subsequently not being operational for long periods of time, which in turn led to damages within the fleet.

Relating to the Minister's failure to reconsider the decision to move the fleet after a three month hand over period after a request by the Public Protector

Advocate Madonsela found that such a refusal by the Minister, even after a request from the Public Protector herself, was imprudent and led to fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Furthermore, the actions of the Minister constitute improper and unethical conduct and maladministration

Relating to the irregular awarding of a contract for the repair of unseaworthy vessels returned to DAFF by the SA Navy, exceeding R30 million

Advocate Madonsela is yet to make findings in this regard.

The DA's way forward:

These were some of the major findings made by the Public Protector in the conduct of the Minister and her Department. 

In her report, Advocate Madonsela recommends;

For President Jacob Zuma to take remedial action against Minister Joemat-Pettersson for her "reckless dealing" with state money and services resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, a loss of confidence in the fisheries industry in SA and alleged decimation of fisheries resources in SA and delayed quota allocations due to lack of appropriate research

For the Auditor General to approve the new tender before it is implemented to ensure that similar pitfalls as found in the previous tender do not recur;

For the Minister of Finance to assist in ensuring that the tender which has already been advertised is awarded within 60 days of the release of the report;

For the Director-General to consider taking disciplinary action against Mr Joseph Sebola; and

For the Competition Commission to investigate the collusive bidding;

While the DA welcomes the proposed recommendations by the Public Protector, we reiterate our call for Minister Joemat-Pettersson to be fired. This report should be the final straw as she cannot continue to serve the people of South Africa in this manner. We remind the South African public that this is Advocate Madonsela's second serious adverse report against Minister Joemat-Pettersson. 

In addition to calling for the Minister's removal, I will also be doing the following:

On the instance of the Minister trying to incite the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development to undermine the independence of two constitutional bodies

I will be approaching the SAPS to lay charges for the investigation into the violation of section 181(4) of the Constitution and section 11(1) of the Public Protector act.

On the Matter of Mr Joseph Sebola

I will be approaching the Public Service Commission requesting it to investigate the breaches as reported and conduct a lifestyle audit on him.

On the matter of the Minister ignoring the request from the Public Protector not to force an abrupt handover

I will request the Auditor General and the chairperson of SCOPA to investigate the matter and make a determination on the resultant findings of the Minster's imprudent behaviour which led to fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

On the matter of Sekunjalo

I will be laying a complaint of possible bid rigging and possible collusive bidding or possible collusive tendering with the SAPS and the Competition Commission requesting them to further investigate any possible criminal and anti-competitive behaviour.

Furthermore, I will table this report before the ethics portfolio committee to make a determination on the matters raised. 

Conclusion:

Minister Joemat-Pettersson cannot continue to hold the country to ransom by running the Department as she pleases. President Jacob Zuma must heed our calls and do the right thing and relieve her of her duties.

Tina Joemat-Pettersson unquestionably does not have the qualities and integrity to serve as a Minister, let alone as a Minister of an important portfolio such as Fisheries. 

She has repeatedly shown contempt for the rule of law and her obligations to the South African fishing industry and public. She must be removed as Minister without delay.  

Statement issued by Pieter van Dalen MP, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, December 5 2013

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