Dodgy officials back in fishy business

2015-04-05 15:00

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Officials try to get back in after 2013 flawed rights allocation process

Two officials, squarely in the sights of a crack anti-corruption team for their role in the fisheries department’s flawed 2013 fishing rights allocation process, are involved in another multimillion-rand bid to begin the process afresh.

In addition, a new report by Emang Basadi Legal and Forensic Services has uncovered allegations that the old process was riddled with political interference.

Dennis Fredericks and Desmond Stevens – directors of inshore fisheries management and stakeholder management at the fisheries branch, respectively – are intimately involved in the new process, according to a parliamentary presentation delivered by Fisheries Deputy Director-General Mortimer Mannya two weeks ago.

Fredericks was alleged to have owned a private Nedbank account into which bribes for exemptions were paid, while the Hawks told City Press last year that Stevens – who headed fisheries in an acting capacity during the 2013 process – was being investigated for demanding millions in bribes in return for allocations.

The new process, with a provisional budget of R20?million, was scheduled to kick off in February.

Asked about the status of the investigation, and whether it included Fredericks, acting Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the matter had been escalated to the Western Cape anti-corruption task team.

This team comprises officers from the Hawks, the Special Investigating Unit and the National Prosecuting Authority.

It is supported by the SA Revenue Service, the Financial Intelligence Centre and Treasury’s accountant-general.

“The matter is still under investigation and no further information can be furnished at this point,” said Mulaudzi.

Fisheries managers have told Emang Basadi – which the fisheries branch appointed to review and advise it on the fallout from the failed process overseen by former agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson – that there were instances of political interference.

“Some [fishing rights] applicants scored low and ought to have been disqualified due to failure to meet the criteria,” reads the report.

“However, Emang Basadi was advised that certain?...?officials would be instructed to accept or approve an applicant whose application would have been disqualified had it been properly considered.”

Mannya referred questions from City Press about Fredericks and Steven’s involvement in the new process – as well as about the Emang Basadi report – to departmental spokesperson Makenosi Maroo, who ignored repeated requests for comment. Fredericks said: “The SAPS, as a matter of course, investigates allegations whether founded or unfounded.”

Johann Augustyn, secretary of the SA Deep Sea Trawling Industry Association, said although the industry body was not affected by the old fishing rights process, it trusted that the department would make responsible decisions about the involvement of its staff in the new process.

“We trust that [the department] is capable of running a good process, provided they have the human and financial resources available.”

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