A Chronology of the Arms-Deal Investigation
September 15 2000
Auditor-General Shauket Fakie tables a report in parliament questioning aspects of the arms deal and recommending a forensic investigation.
The report says: "Based on the findings, I am of the opinion that aspects of independence, fairness and impartiality could have been addressed more significantly... Numerous allegations regarding possible irregularities pertaining to the awarding of contracts currently exist... A forensic audit of this next level of the process may need to be considered."
A day before the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) is due to start hearings on the auditor-general's report, the Heath Special Investigating Unit announces that it has applied to investigate the deal.
Spokesperson Naomi Goodley says the unit asked for a presidential proclamation enabling it to start an investigation after studying Fakie's report. Scopa chairperson Gavin Woods comments: "It is a bit surprising that Judge Heath has decided not to wait until parliament finishes its investigations."
SA National Defence Force chiefs and others involved in the arms deal appear before Scopa. The committee hears that cost has escalated from R30-billion to R43-billion because of rand's depreciation and other factors.
Members express shock at the lack of procedures to prevent conflicts of interest during the acquisition process. "It appears we are paying more than we thought ... and could be getting less," says Woods.
Scopa releases its report, in which it recommends a multi-agency investigation into the allegations of corruption and conflicts of interests in the arms deal.
The report recommends: "The committee feels that the investigation would be best served by combining a number of areas of investigative expertise and a number of differing areas of legal competence and authority.
"It therefore recommends that an exploratory meeting, convened by the committee, be held within two weeks of the tabling of this report in the National Assembly.
"The auditor-general, the Heath Special Investigating Unit, the public protector, the Investigating Directorate of Serious Economic Offences (IDSEO) and any other appropriate investigative body should be invited, so that the best combination of skills, legal mandates and resources can be found for such an investigation. Once this is established, the committee will issue an investigation brief to the team for its input."
The report is formally tabled in the National Assembly, which adopts it unanimously, without discussion or debate.
As envisaged in the resolution, members of Scopa meet with representatives of the Heath unit, the auditor-general, the public protector and the IDSEO. "The objective is to see if we can establish a structure within which the units can work together," says Woods.
Responding to comments by Woods and Heath, National Assembly Speaker Frene Ginwala says she is "not aware of any resolution of Parliament or the National Assembly instructing the president to issue any proclamation regarding the work of the Heath commission".
Ginwala says she had asked the advice of the parliamentary law advisers, who said the resolution adopted by parliament envisaged that a "chosen investigating body" would undertake the probe, but not that that body should necessarily be the Heath unit.
Scopa does not have the authority to "subcontract" other agencies to undertake investigations on its behalf, she adds.
Four cabinet ministers - Alec Erwin (Trade and Industry), Mosiuoa Lekota (Defence), Trevor Manuel (Finance) and Jeff Radebe (Public Enterprises) - hold a press conference at which they defend the integrity of the arms acquisition process.
Erwin says "no concrete facts" have been brought to light pointing to corruption. "Accordingly, the government rejects with contempt any insinuation of corrupt practice on its part."
Justice Minister Penuell Maduna announces that he has recommended to President Thabo Mbeki that the Heath unit should not be involved in the investigation.
His letter to the president states: "The matter should not, at this stage, be referred to the unit headed by Judge Heath... However, the public protector, the national director of public prosecutions and the auditor-general are free to do as they wish, consistent with their legal mandates and the information they have."
Mbeki, acting on Maduna's recommendation, says he will not issue a proclamation enabling the Heath unit to join the investigation.
With acknowledgement to the Star and Independent Online.