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Archive for February, 2010

Kenya launches Marine Information Sharing System

The Nairobi Convention Clearinghouse and Information Sharing System has announced the launch of the Kenya Coastal and Marine Clearinghouse and Information Sharing System, an online information sharing portal to improve management and protection of marine life and environment in the Kenya coastal region.
Dubbed the Kenya Coastal and Marine Clearinghouse and Information Sharing System, the portal will be used to provide data and information on the environment in the Western Indian Ocean region. It can be accessed on this link: http://www.kmfri.co.ke/portal/

Performance Reviewing the Fishing Industry

When the long term commercial fishing rights were allocated back in 2005 and 2006, the vast majority of fishing rights allocated were issued subject to the periodic performance measuring processes. The intention was to ensure that while valuable fishing rights – collectively valued at approximately R70 billion in 2005 – were being issued to commercial enterprises for periods of between 8 and 15 years, right holders would have to remain accountable to the government who remains responsible for the sustainable management of fish stocks. Generally speaking, each fishery policy states that right holders’ respective “performance” will be measured periodically against criteria to be confirmed in consultation with the sector concerned.
What was never envisaged was the present process which is akin to full-blown rights allocation process involving some 2500 right holders! It was never envisaged that MCM would have to spend some R9 million on a consulting firm to design complex application forms requiring an expanse of data that MCM ought to already have. What did MCM do with all that data they collected from the long term fishing rights process? Nothing is the short answer. They failed to produce any form of sector analysis after the allocation of fishing rights – in fact the only fishery sector analysis ever undertaken was by Feike in 2008.
By 2006, MCM had detailed data sets on every facet of each right holder’s business from broad based black economic empowerment, the number, age and type of vessels used, the number of jobs sustained, financial performance, to annual catching performance. All that was required thereafter was to build on each right holder’s respective data profile in each of the subsequent years. Every right holder is obliged in terms of its permit conditions to submit certain data including the following:
  • any information that the department may require, such as financial turnover, first sale reports, changes in black empowerment profiles, investments made in for example green technologies or EAF etc;
  • catch statistics; and
  • levies paid.
While catch statistics are routinely submitted and levies paid for fish landed by all right holders, it is clear from the so-called “pre-populated” forms MCM simply either does not have any of this data or it recognises that its data is so unreliable, it could not be used. The same applies to compliance records. MCM simply does not have a reliable record of who has broken
its laws and who has not; who has paid administrative fines for minor misdemeanours and who has had been convicted of more serious offences. This despite it having a sophisticated multi-million IT system designed for this very purpose of fisheries administration and management.
Back in 2005 when the performance review process was conceptualised, it was envisaged that periodically right holders in each sector would be evaluated by MCM based on a cumulative analysis of the data held by MCM for the each evaluation period. Broadly speaking, the intention was that those right holders that displayed a sub-average performance on any particular criteria would then be requested to explain their poor performance(s). Subsequent to each review process, MCM would then publish a detailed sector analysis indicating how the sector was progressing (or regressing and why) in the key environmental, ecological, social and economic sectors. In this way, both MCM and right holders (and industry bodies) would be able to make crucial decisions such as the need to invest in new fishing vessels, factories or staff or whether any target species required greater protection and thus a shift to other more sustainable species which might require both industry and government to identify new markets for the intended new target species and so forth. Of course this process assumed that MCM managers would be sufficiently skilled to not only maintain right holder databases but also interpret the data collected and act proactively to advance the fisheries.
However, what is apparent is that the performance measuring process is a consultancy-led exercise where MCM is simply looking to say they did it. It is clear from the generic forms and generic data required, that this expensive R9 million exercise will not achieve any of the original intentions. It is therefore certain that after the data has been submitted in April 2010, the industry will wait with bated breath only to receive an analysis free, data poor general set of reasons as to what was involved in evaluating each application submitted. We will wait in vain for any analytical statements about jobs, the future of the resources, the projected economy of the fishery or the health of black empowerment, particularly as many black right holders fell by the way-side during the 2008/2009 global and local economic downturn.
Sadly, the fishing industry is again being made to spend thousands of rands filling in these pointless applications only for them to find a home on MCM storage shelves.

R500 for Lobster Permit!

MCM want recreational lobster fishers to pay R500 for an annual lobster fishing permit! When the 10-year long commercial lobster rights were allocated, the fee was R400! MCM want recreational fishers to pay more for an annual permit than the commercial fishers paid for a 10 year right!
The fee increases proposed by MCM range from 233% to 488% for recreational lobster permits. All of a sudden, Eskom’s fee requests look reasonable! South Africa’s official inflation rate has just breached the 6% upper level and most businesses (especially small ones that create the most jobs) are still struggling to keep people on the pay-roll. The Cape Times reports this morning that the proposed recreational fishing permit and boat licence fees will certainly result in a sharp decline in permit sales which will hurt the local SCUBA, boating and fishing businesses.
The proposed fee increases confirm an Eskom type crisis at MCM as it belatedly scrambles to raise money squandered by Mayekiso’s band of inept managers on business class travel, hundreds of unnecessary jaunts to Pretoria for outcome-averse management meetings, expensive workshops and wasteful Christmas parties. More so, the fee increases are meant to fund Mayekiso’s proposed new branch at environmental affairs – it will be cheaper to fire this man that is responsible for the repeated collapse of fisheries governance in this country, and who was found to have squandered millions of rands in 1999 and is again accused of siphoning off millions (see story below). Why is the department of environmental affairs so desperate to keep a man who has proved himself to be such a liability?
The proposed fee increases also indicate an MCM that is so out of touch with reality that it boggles the mind. The Minister of Environmental Affairs – who issued these proposed fee increases – is supposed to be an ANC minister in an ANC government apparently deeply concerned about rising inequality, poverty and unemployment. These fee increases will greatly support increases in all three categories. Is the Minister aware of the consequences of her proposed fee increases.
Do her foolish officials not know that, for example, the very poorest rural families purchase east coast and west coast rock lobster fishing permits each season to harvest lobsters to supplement their meagre incomes and government grants, paying for uniforms, bread and taxi fare to get to remote clinics or schools. And now MCM want to increase these fees by 488%! The same applies to the outrageous increases proposed for linefish, bait, crab and net permits. These proposed fee increases are immoral and a breach of this country’s commitments to reducing poverty, inequality and unemployment, especially in rural coastal communities.
Let us hope that the Minister Finance has more capable advisers and refuses environmental affairs’ request to implement the proposed fee increases.

Mayekiso Accused of Serious Graft

South African fisheries management is in complete turmoil embroiled in scandal, lack of governance and a desperate fight by Monde Mayekiso, the DG of environmental affairs, Nosipho Ngcabe and their management team to hold on to aspects of Marine and Coastal Management apparently in a bid to not only justify Mayekiso’s continued employment at taxpayers’ expense but also to hide a host of apparent corrupt and questionable dealings. This much is clear from two separate documents provided to Feike. One is drafted by MCM staff and the other by staff at environmental affairs.
The staff broadly accuse Mayekiso and Ngcabe of serious maladministration and blatant corruption involving hundreds of millions of taxpayer rands. Mayekiso is accused of a range of potentially corrupt and illegal conduct. Firstly, he is accused of siphoning off approximately R300 million in funds intended for the Marine Aquaculture Programme (MAP) supposedly for coastal community support and development. The accusation is that these funds are being directed under a blanket of secrecy to an Hermanus MAP project and companies in which the former mayor of Cape Town, Nomaindi Mfeketo, has interests. The staff allege (although it has been rumoured for some time) that the Mfeketo and Mayekiso are intimately involved.
The second accusation levelled against Mayekiso concerns his son’s involvement as a director of the Resolve Group at about the same time Resolve was awarded a R9,5 million contract for the fishing rights performance measuring process which is currently underway. Staff also cite an instance where in 2009 Mayekiso himself intervened in a tendering process and “instructed” the MCM Bid Evaluation and Bid Adjudication Committee to award a R500 000 tender to the Resolve Group.
Staff at the department of Environmental Affairs in Pretoria have also levelled serious accusations against the DG, Nosipho Ngcabe. Ngcabe is accused of intervening and awarding contracts to Ikamva Consulting which employs her sister, Sibongile Jezile, as a director and senior executive manager. It is said that Ikamva has been awarded contracts to the value of R54,7 million.
Clearly, both Ngcabe and Mayekiso have a lot to answer for … and so too their beneficiaries. It is quite pointless to have – as we are regularly reminded – some of the best anti-graft laws in the world if so many senior and top civil servants simply snigger at them and use our taxes as a get rich quick scheme. The problem is that, as the Assets Forfeiture Unit reported to Parliament, these crooked officials never suffer sanction. They are inevitably suspended for months on end earning their salaries and benefiting from their criminal sprees as directors and shareholders of corrupt private amoral BEE companies.
Mayekiso is pretty unique though and you got to take your hat off to him. How often can a civil servant described by a public ministerial report as being incompetent and responsible for serious financial irregularities return to the same organisation to be given a second turn at ruining it … and at a premium salary? The report initiated by Valli Moosa in 1999 found, inter alia, that –
“The audit report, which followed the Internal Audit Division of the DEAT being requested in August this year to review the financial management of the MCM by the former Director-General, indicated an extreme lack of basic financial and administrative procedures and controls, substantial amounts of unauthorised expenditure, transgression of treasury instructions, and potential financial irregularities and corruption.

There were 29 generic problem areas of financial control or irregularities in terms of Treasury Rules ranging from overtime and leave to harbour management. The lack of basic financial and administrative controls in MCM has resulted in unauthorised expenditure in excess of R24 million this financial year

Included are a total of 56 contracts with a total value of R23,375 million, which are financed from the MLRF, are unauthorised for the financial year 1999/2000.”
Given the serious accusations faced by Mayekiso this time around though, coupled with the significant voices of concern from NEHAWU, staff, the fishing industry, NGO’s, experts and academics in the sector, it is hoped that Mayekiso’s desperate attempts to remain in control of MCM are over and that the allegations levelled against him are fully investigated and not swept under the carpet.

The Tail that Wags the Dog

In November 2009 the President, Jacob Zuma, informed the South African fishing industry in Hawston that a decision was taken to appoint Tina Joemat-Pettersson as the Minister in charge of fisheries and Marine and Coastal Management. In order to formalise and effect this decision a single A4 page presidential proclamation was all that was required to confirm the institution of executive authority over fisheries management in terms of the Constitution.
Feike can now confirm that the reason why in February 2010 – 3 months after an instruction by the President – Joemat-Pettersson has still not been appointed Minister of Fisheries (despite her title to this effect) is that the senior management team responsible for the collapse of effective fisheries management in South Africa continues to undermine a decision taken by the President and confirmed by Cabinet. The trade union NEHAWU, whose members are employed by MCM, have addressed a letter to the President detailing the conniving and underhandedness of the Director-General of Water and Environmental Affairs, the former DDG of MCM, Monde Mayekiso and the acting DDG of MCM, Razeena Omar. NEHAWU’s letter confirms that despite Mayekiso’s sudden removal as DDG of MCM in November, he continues to cause chaos at MCM by orchestrating a campaign to frustrate the conferment of executive control to Joemat-Pettersson. NEHAWU has quite correctly demanded the removal of these officials and has even threatened court action should a draft proclamation drafted by Mayekiso et al be signed by the President.
Feike has also had sight of the draft proclamation. The draft proclamation proposes a messy and ill-informed carving up of certain powers and functions related to fisheries and coastal management. For example, it proposes that the power to issue section 28 notices under the MLRA remain with the Minister of Environmental Affairs but the power to issue permits and set TAC’s/TAE’s be transferred to the Minister of Fisheries. Another example concerns the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) Act of 2008. Mayekiso et al want to retain control over the ICM Act but fail to explain how environmental affairs can implement an Act that applies from the high water mark seaward for 12 nautical miles directly affecting fisheries management and the concept of an Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries (EAF). More importantly perhaps, the few available skills left to effectively implement this Act, such as the estuarine and marine pollution experts, are all employed by MCM and universities such as UCT. Is Mayekiso et al proposing a duplication of skills at MCM and at environmental affairs and at what cost to taxpayers… and where are these skills going to be found in duplicate? There are a number of other similar examples, which indicate that the drafters of the proclamation lack all knowledge and understanding about concepts such as EAF, integrated fisheries, estuarine and coastal management and so forth. Feike understands that a number of the country’s foremost experts on fisheries management and science are unanimous in their view that the proposed splitting of functions as proposed by the draft proclamation would be a step in the wrong direction that would have significant adverse consequences and cause much international confusion and embarrassment.
It is plainly apparent that Mayekiso’s lateral transfer to a non-existent deputy director-general post at a salary of more than R1 million per annum needs to be justified to treasury and the public service administration. The only way to justify the creation of an entirely new branch led by a DDG – Mayekiso – is to load it with functions and legislative mandates regardless of the costs and practicalities. And while the tail continues to wag the dog at MCM, as officials dictate the terms of failure to elected politicians, what is the lack of leadership and governance costing the Marine Living Resources Fund and the fishing industry? One need only consider the failed policies in the abalone sector; the loss of some 3500 tons of abalone to poachers at a cost of more than R3 billion to the economy in 2009 alone to understand the magnitude of the crisis at MCM.
Of greater concern is all the other rumoured but simmering crises which may reduce the abalone issue to a mere blip on the radar. What is urgently required is strong, focussed and committed political and professional leadership at MCM to immediately start salvaging this ship of fools. It is hoped that the President will act decisively and as promised that there will be a single captain in charge of MCM and that captain will be Joemat-Pettersson. To allow those officials responsible for the institutional failure that is MCM today would be a grave disservice to the more than 40000 fishworkers and crew in the industry and the more than 3000 commercial and artisinal fishing right holders.