Publication: Independent Online Issued: Date: 2000-11-06 Reporter: Sapa Editor:

Arms Deal Team Gets Down to Probing Business

Publication  Independent Online
Date 2000-11-06
Reporter Sapa
Web Link

Parliament's watchdog public accounts committee will meet representatives of five investigative units next week to map out a strategy for a joint probe into South Africa's controversial R30-billion arms deal. 

The committee's chairman, Gavin Woods, told reporters on Monday the closed meeting was scheduled for November 13 in Pretoria.

It was expected to include the head of the Heath anti-corruption unit, Judge Willem Heath, Auditor-General Shauket Fakie, the investigating directorate of serious economic offences, Public Protector Selby Baqwa and national Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka.

The group would discuss, among other things, the scope of the investigation and which units would be involved. 

'We will pass on a lot of information to the investigative units' Representatives of the committee would also hand over information collected during its probe into the deal. 

"We will pass on a lot of information to the investigative units ... for that reason will want to keep it (the meeting) closed," said Woods. 

The committee last week released a report calling for a super-investigation into all aspects of the procurement deal.

The committee also took the cabinet to task for failing to disclose that the costs could escalate, and says it believes there may have been "undue influence" in awarding the prime contracts.

The report echoes concerns expressed during the committee's hearings about the eventual cost of the deal.

Cabinet had omitted to mention certain cost implications. The cabinet said in September last year the cost would total R29,9-billion, which was adjusted to R30,3-billion two months later and which - including exchange rate and inflation costs - rose in September this year to R43,8-billion.

The committee said it was clear the cabinet had omitted to mention certain cost implications which would significantly add to the state's commitments.

The deal, signed in late 1999, has been the subject of repeated corruption claims.

Last month, defence officials were grilled for seven hours by members of the committee after Fakie's special report to parliament, which found that generally accepted procurement practices were not followed. 

Fakie also recommended a special forensic audit into the deal's subcontracts. - Sapa

With acknowledgement to Sapa and Independent Online.