Thursday, February 28, 2013

DAFF's New Timetable for Rights Allocations

The DDG of Fisheries, Ms Greta Apelgren-Nakardien, announced a new timetable for the allocation of fishing rights today. 

Picture of the timetable below, courtesy of Colleen Jacka, editor of Maritime Review Africa

It is incredible that this department thinks that we are as gullible as they are illiterate in basic South African law and fishing rights allocation processes. 

Their "amended" timetable firstly contradicts what the DDG herself stated at the press briefing today (28 February 2013) regarding the appointment of a service provider to oversee the allocation process. The DDG stated that she hoped the service provider to oversee the allocation process would be appointed by June 2013 (that is realistic). The original timetable published last year stated that the service provider ought to have been appointed by November 2012. Despite the fact that the appointment date for service providers in the two versions differ by more than 7 months, both timetables show that rights will be allocated by September 2013 - that is in 7 months' time! 

Now that is incredible. But the amended timetable proceeds from the premise of appointing a service provider in March 2013, which is obviously impossible because the DAFF presentation to Parliament on 19 February states that it must still "re-work bid specifications" for the tender to appoint a service provider; "advertise" the tender; "evaluate and adjudicate" bids and then only appoint the service provider! In other words, by June, as the DDG let slip herself! 

Clearly, the amended timetable is premised on a fallacy; an impossibility. Which then means the remainder of the amended timetable is, quite frankly, nonsense as well. 

Assuming DAFF is permitted to ignore all legal prescripts for the appointment of service providers and that one is appointed by 30 March 2013 (and assuming the tender is published in the Gazette tomorrow - 1 March 2013) and service providers are given 30 days to put together a detailed and complex proposal on how they will oversee the rights allocation process, where are the draft policies for public comment; where are the draft amendments to the 1998 Fisheries Regulations and the Marine Living Resources Act; where are the promised draft Rule Books for industry comment?

And where are the draft fisheries policies that were supposed to have been published in January 2013, including the proposed amendments to the General Fisheries Policy of 2005 (and concomitant amendments to the Regulations and MLRA), and what about organising and conducting public consultation processes between Port Nolloth and Richards Bay in March 2013 (according to their own timetable), then analysing and incorporating the proposed changes into the policy scheme; then preparing the entire policy scheme for approval by Cabinet (which in itself is a 5 month process); then gazetting the whole lot; and then inviting applications for each sector; evaluating thousands of applications and allocating rights in .... 6 months! 

This is the same department that took more than 2 years just to draft the as yet unimplementable Small Scale Fisheries Policy! This policy has been on the statute books for 12 months and the department is still scraping the barrel for ideas on how it can implement this fatally flawed policy - hence the continued allocation of Interim Relief fishing permits (and we are currently in the 7th year of this "interim" process - it might as well have been called the "interim-long-term-relief process")!

Remember, they were supposed to have finalised draft amendments to the MLRA and Regulations last year. Alas! There are no proposed legislative amendments on the 2013 Parliamentary calendar.

What is incomprehensible to us is why DAFF continues to (dishonestly) insist that it will allocate fishing rights before they expire at the end of the year. Why cant they just be honest; admit that they will only be ready with final policies and applications by February 2014 and rights will be allocated by the third or fourth quarter of 2014? 

The fishing sector urgently requires some level of professionalism, honesty and integrity from DAFF. Is that too much to ask for? 

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