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Heat Turned up Against Corruption in the Fisheries Sector

Sustainability Clams Economics +7 more

SOUTH AFRICA - The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is determined to root out corruption within its ranks and to that end, the police have tasked an internationally recognised auditing firm to conduct a forensic audit of the fisheries branch after a preliminary investigation uncovered evidence of corruption.

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Briefing media in Parliament on Wednesday, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said the findings from the preliminary investigation could implicate some officials in the department, with corruption evident in the allocation of quotas, transfer of rights and preferential treatment given to certain businesses.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson, who declined to name the company as she had not been cleared by police to do so, was due to present a more detailed briefing to her fellow Cabinet members on the corruption findings at the fortnightly Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

She said the investigations were being conducted into all types of corruption in the department, but that the initial probe had indicated there was corruption centred on abalone.

"We are determined to root out corruption. We will not hesitate to act against any official who is implicated in any way in any corrupt practice."

The minister said since preliminary investigations began, her office has had to respond to weekly allegations from officials claiming that she was going to fire them.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson said some allegations had also been made about her as a person, pointing out that if these were true, people must bring evidence to back these up.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson said the department would now add further measures to secure the department's information and ensure the safety of staff.

Last week, following increased surveillance by police and other officials, over 30 436 units of abalone were confiscated, leading to seven arrests in five different incidences of illegal poaching.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson commended community members and officials in her department who had helped expose poaching activities and encouraged South Africans both inside and outside her department to come forward if they had other information around poaching.

The arrests last week include two arrests made in Riviersonderend last Friday and the confiscation of 3,806 abalone.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson said the department was busy calculating the cost to the economy of the confiscated abalone.

However, she said she was concerned because the proceeds of confiscated abalone were awarded to Marine and Coastal Management, and therefore it was crucial to secure arrests before abalone is removed from the sea.