Fisheries Minister, Bernard Esau, has rubbished reports that the process to evaluate more than 5000 fishing quota applications has been compromised amid claims that politically connected individuals are being given access to documents to perfect their applications.
Speaking to the Windhoek Observer in Swakopmund on Thursday on the side-lines of a meeting with the fishing industry, Esau said the ministry had appointed an independent body to evaluate the quota applications in order to bring transparency in the selection process.
“In terms of the evaluation exercise, that’s done by a professional body that cannot compromise its integrity. They can’t do that [compromise the application process], it’s impossible. I selected that body because I know it has a good standing in our society,” Esau said.
“Not even my executive director and directors are involved in the process.”
This follows accusations by official opposition leader, Mchenry Venaani, who claimed on Facebook that,” While over 5700 applicants await their fate. A few are busy fixing papers to copy from other applicants while submissions are closed in order to perfect their bids (sic). Inside trading and corruption at its best!!(sic)
Quizzed if the ministry will meet the deadline set to announce the successful applicants, Esau was non-committal, and instead maintained that a thorough selection had to be prioritized.
“You talk about 5000, it’s quite a number of applications and we want to attend to each and every fishing right application properly,” he said.
“Even if you have competed one page in the application process, you must enjoy the attention of the evaluator.”
On whether the big fishing companies will be prioritised in the awarding of rights at the expense of the small companies and entrepreneurs, the minister said his ministry will only prioritise compliance with the set requirements.
“It will be an issue of compliance. Do you comply with the set criteria and requirements?” he said.
Asked what the ministry will do if it found itself with 90 percent of the applicants complying, the minister said the applicants would have to prove that they all have factories as well as provide proof of market of supply of the fish.
Giving an outlook of the sector, Esau said the industry was performing well. “They are doing fine in terms of poverty eradication and food security.”
He further said the ministry will maintain a hard line stance on transhipment of fish.
“That is illegal and if they do not pay taxes, then they will have to be dealt with in accordance with the law,” he said