Sunday, November 24, 2013

Silence of the DAFF: The 2014 Squid Season Starts & Not a Right to be Seen

At Midday on 23 November 2013, the 2013/2014 squid season started. However for the 136 vessels  and 2422 crew uncertainty continued to dominate the fishery as it had done over the past 12 months. 

DAFF maintained its questionable silence and complete news-blackout on the 2013 Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP). No one knows - 

  • how many applications in total were received for the 8 fisheries; or
  • of the total applications received, how many new entrant and current right holders applied for fishing rights in each sector; or
  • what the broad transformation profile of the applicants are (new and current right holders); or
  • what the investment profile of each fishery looks like.
Such basic information (which was all readily available within 2 to 7 days of the 2005 rights allocation process having begun) is crucial for the industry and applicants in general. It allows for greater confidence in the process and of course ensures that the process is as transparent and accountable as possible. Which senior officials have been appointed to allocate fishing rights in each sector? Do they know anything about fisheries or will we see the same calibre of unskilled, deployed cadres that were used to "allocate" the Sekunjalo vessel management tender?

DAFF's insistence on a veil of secrecy over the process, coupled with rampant allegations of  corruption and greed by senior officials at DAFF (allegations which the Minister herself has been brandishing about for years without doing a thing about them) only compounds the rumour mill that the secrecy and lack of accountability are designed to ensure that the "right" people get the fishing rights. Not since the 1990's has a rights allocation process been so chaotic and fraught with blatant illegality and maladministration. 

Feike has forwarded to the HAWKS information which was handed to us from a number of sources  about two senior officials who have apparently received generous payouts from a service provider enabling the recent purchase of multi-million homes and a brand new vehicle. There are further allegations of an official having had building work done at his private residence and paid for this by allocating the builders interim relief (IR) quotas. The one year, these people were not on the IR quota list, and then suddenly the following year they are lobster quota holders. 

The tragedy is how rapidly DAFF has degenerated into a failed institution unable to do the very basics - like allocate fishing rights timeously; have research and patrol vessels at sea; have vaguely skilled and honest senior managers. "Officials" hold posts they are entirely unqualified to hold - why are they in these posts we have to ask if they know zilch about fisheries management and their CV's would not even past initial scrutiny for the post - like a junior lecturer applying to be the VC at a top 200 University?  They conduct themselves in a rapacious manner in complete violation of what it means to be an employee in the civil service. 

Given the ongoing secrecy and continued holding of office by the most unqualified of people for these posts, there can be little trust in the honesty and legality of the FRAP process. We understand that - like in the ruling ANC party - senior managers at DAFF operate in factions, one undermining the other. So while these factions are undermining each other, who is looking after the interests of the fishing industry? Clearly, from the department's undeniable record of failure, NO ONE.

Where are these fishing rights that were supposed to have been allocated by September 2013 according to DAFF's last published timetable before the Portfolio Committee? Are there just too many factions busy fighting over who gets the spoils while thousands of right holders and crew are forced to standby and witness another government sponsored feeding frenzy at the pig trough? 

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