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OCG report clears Tufton of nepotism

Published:Friday | February 8, 2019 | 10:00 AM

The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has said that it has found no evidence to indicate that then Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Dr Christopher Tufton was involved in the approval process for the award of industrial lobster fishing licences for the 2011-2012 fishing season.

The finding came from a probe that was launched to determine whether Tufton had had a hand in the approval of a 2011-2012 lobster fishing licence to his brother-in-law, Ewan Stephenson.

According to the particulars of his application, Stephenson was a first-time applicant for the licence, had no practical experience in the lobster fishery industry, and owned no fishing vessels. Nonetheless, he was awarded the licence through his company, Branmar Investments Limited.

In an Integrity Commission report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the OCG said it was unable to conclude that there had been any impropriety in the award of a licence to Stephenson.

The report, however, noted that there was no documented evaluation or award criteria based on international best practices that were used by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, through the Fisheries Division, to determine the award of the licences beyond that which was outlined in the advertisement and the policy document.

The OCG has recommended that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and, in particular, the Fisheries Division, consider the introduction and/or design of an objective evaluation and award criteria for the award of licences during the lobster fishing seasons.