Thursday, December 8, 2011

More Trouble for the Fisheries Minister

The Business Report ( today reports that Smit Amandla, the local subsidiary of the powerful Dutch-based multinational ship-handling group Smit, has served a notice of motion on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries seeking to interdict it from awarding a R1 billion tender to a consortium led by Sekunjalo.

This BLOG has reported extensively on this increasingly problematic and questionable tender. At the heart of the problem is a clear (to all but blinded government officials) conflict of interest where a fishing company is in charge of the fisheries patrol fleet.

In a bizarre response to the allegations of a conflict of interest is Sekunjalo's (and one assumes government's) bottom-of the-barrel-scraping defence that -

“When they are on patrol the vessels are commanded by government inspectors who are appointed by the department. The crew and the skipper have no idea where the vessel will patrol until they are out at sea and given the GPS co-ordinates by the inspector. And once they are out at sea no one is allowed to communicate,”
The stupidity and outright deceit of such a statement should be criminal!

Lie 1: The patrol vessels are "commanded" by fishery control officers. As the former chief director of compliance, I can assure you a fishery control officer is neither allowed to nor authorised under our maritime laws to command a vessel. The skipper and the officers are in charge of the vessel. This statement is akin to stating that a police officer on board an airplane is the commander of that aircraft!

Lie 2: The crew and skipper have no idea where the vessel will patrol until they are out at sea! This statement is so outrageous I could not believe it was uttered as a defence! This statement merely aggravates the stupidity of the decision to allocate the tender to Sekunjalo. Picture it, a blind-folded skipper and crew get on the vessel, not knowing where on earth they are going! Who decided on the fuel; the food; the budget for the trip? Did the fisheries control officers who are also "commanding the vessels" also fill up the tanks; buy the food; load the stores!

Lie 3: And once out at sea, no is allowed to communicate! What absolute crap! Why do the vessels have state of the art communication systems? Is this lot actually from Planet Earth?

So, if the FCO's are in fact "commanding the vessel", responsible for deployment, bunkers, stores and all else, what the hell are we paying Sekunjalo R800 million for? Will they just wash the vessels?

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