The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tina Joemat-Pettersson has announced that her department would set up an inquiry to look into tender practices at the department. The department has been under scrutiny around alleged irregular processes and procedures being followed in the awarding of tenders.
The awarding of a tender in November last year to Sekunjalo for the management and maintenance of the department's fleet of research and fisheries patrol vessels was withdrawn recently by the department following the department's own legal advice.
"As a result of our own flawed processes, an innocent company, Sekunjalo, has been portrayed as the culprit in this saga and its reputation has been stained," said Joemat-Pettersson.
"The reality is that, based on our own legal advice, it was our processes and procedures that failed. Another company could have taken serious legal action against the department for awarding and then withdrawing a tender, based on shoddy government work," she said
Joemat-Pietterssen has set up an independent inquiry, in which a committee would scrutinise fisheries tenders and tender processes to determine whether there is any maladministration or fraud or both.
She said she hoped a retired judge would head the committee, which could sit as soon as the beginning of next month.Terms of reference still to be finalised
The terms of reference for the inquiry are still being determined, but it is likely that the department's inquiry may go further back than the time since Joemat-Pietterssen took office as the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
She appealed for people who had any information that could assist the committee of inquiry to come forward.
"This inquiry is not a witch-hunt, it is an attempt to allow fisheries to restore its image as a clean and capable branch," she said.
Smit Amandla's contract ends at the end of this month and the minister said the department was looking for a temporary service provider to manage its vessels in the mean time.
The navy is one of the service providers the department is looking at, she said, adding that as soon as a memorandum of understanding had been finalised with a service provider the department would announce this to the public.
"We do believe that by the end of March we'll have all our systems in place and that whatever entity will be fulfilling that duty, will be there until we have solve the situation," she said.
Once the legal process has been finalised, the department would determine whether to put the contract out on tender or not, she said.