Joemat-Pettersson is innocent, says fisheries department
There are no concrete grounds for President Jacob Zuma to take disciplinary measures against Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, her department said on Tuesday.
It was responding to a finding by public protector Thuli Madonsela that the awarding of an R800-million tender for fisheries patrol services to the Sekunjalo Marine Service Consortium (SMSC) was irregular.
The department said the allegations made against Joemat-Pettersson had nothing to do with the tender.
Madonsela recommended that Zuma take action against Joemat-Pettersson.
She found the minister had been "reckless [in] dealing with state money and services which resulted in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, loss of confidence in the fisheries industry, alleged decimation of fisheries resources, and delayed quota allocations due to lack of appropriate research".
The department said: "We believe these comments are highly questionable, as they are based on several highly prejudiced claims and statements which were made by individuals during the course of the investigation, and reject them as being unfounded."
The auditor general had declared a clean audit for the period in question, confirming there had been no wasteful expenditure, the department said.
"In fact, the department has received a clean audit in every year of the minister's term."
The statement that there was a loss of confidence by the industry was a matter of perception and opinion, and there was no evidence in the report to substantiate this, the department said.
Madonsela had acknowledged that the supposed decimation of fisheries resources was merely an allegation, yet she had recommended that disciplinary action be considered.
"It is legally unprecedented to discipline someone on the basis of an allegation," the department said.
"The matter of fish stocks is, in any event, the subject of international scientific studies and academic debates and not the competency of the public protector."
On fishing quota allocations, it said these had been executed in time and it therefore rejected the allegation.
"The report acknowledges that the department did the correct thing in withdrawing the tender, and that no money was spent on this tender.
"It also acknowledges that the minister acted correctly in instructing the department to end a problematic tender by handing the ships to the navy."
The department said it was willing to meet Madonsela to discuss all the matters dealt with in its response. – Sapa.