The Department of Fisheries announced this morning that it had appointed Damen Shipyards on a six month "emergency" basis to effect unspecified repairs to and undertake maintenance on the fisheries research and patrol vessels.
The Department confirmed that it appointed Damen Shipyards on 3 April 2013 in terms of the Public Finance Management Act's (PFMA) provision for the appointment of service providers on an "urgent or emergency case" basis without having to follow the normal public tender procedures.
It is our view that this is simply nonsense and an abuse of the applicable PFMA provisions. The Department knew by November 2012 that the Navy had completely failed in its mandate. By 19 February 2013, the department confirmed to Parliament that the Navy had failed to put the vessels to sea and that the vessels required substantial repair. Why did the department not commence with a public tender procedure at that stage so that come 1 April 2013 (or even before that date), the properly appointed service provider would have been able to commence work on the vessels? Accordingly, on what basis then does the urgency or emergency arise? Incompetence and poor planning do not constitute grounds for "urgency" or an "emergency"! They constitute grounds for dismissal!
The contract concluded by the department with Damen may therefore fall foul of the PFMA and thus be unlawful. Will the Public Protector have to be called to intervene in yet another DAFF blunder?