The Public Protector has confirmed that her office will investigate the circumstance pertaining to the awarding of the R800 million vessel management and maintenance contract to Sekunjalo in November 2011.
Feike understands that the Minister and her staff are in a desperate bid to convince the Public Protector that there is nothing to investigate as the tender has been withdrawn or Sekunjalo has withdrawn from the tender. This issue remains unclear and itself warrants scrutiny.
It is our view that even if the tender to Sekunjalo has been withdrawn or canceled, the fact is the tender WAS awarded and it was only because of the vociferous opposition that was launched by civil society and the DA, coupled with litigation launched by the losing incumbent - Smit Marine - against such a dubious allocation that it was withdrawn.
Feike has always maintained that the Minister and her staff have a lot to answer for and the Public Protector has a Constitutional obligation to expose any maladministration, corruption or blatant incompetence.
Based on the forensic report, statements by the Minister herself and Sekunjalo's staff and information leaked to Feike, the following questions require answering:
- Who were the members of the evaluation committee and what technical skills and qualifications did they have to adjudicate such a complex tender?
- Have they and their family members been subjected to lifestyle audits before and after the adjudication of the tender?
- Why did the Minister rush to announce the decision when the forensic report highlighted so many significant concerns?
- Did Sekunjalo break any South African law or any JSE rules?
- Sekunjalo admits to submitting four separate bids under different company and consortia names but with identical financials etc. What they effectively did was submit four connected bids despite signing an SBD Form which states that each bidder should not have any knowledge of any other competitor's bid contents. Does this not constitute bid rigging?
- Does Sekunjalo Marine Services actually exist? There is no record of such an entity on the CIPC database.
- Why did DAFF ignore the PriceWaterhouseCoopers report?
- Who gave the instruction to award this contract despite all of these concerns?
We trust that the Public Protector will vigorously pursue these unanswered questions and provide the fishing industry and the broader South African public with the answers we need. We certainly can not afford to allow the Minister to have this matter swept under her carpet.