Publication: Quickwire Issued: Date: 2001-01-30 Reporter: Sapa Editor:

"Auditor-General's Integrity is Intact"

Publication  Quickwire
Date 2001-01-30
Reporter Sapa
Web Link

The Audit Commission on Tuesday said it was satisfied that the integrity of the auditor-general's office had not been compromised or impaired during the furore about the probe into R43-billion arms deal. 

The auditor-general's special review of the arms procurement package has recently been criticised by members of the executive, including Deputy President Jacob Zuma. 

The statutory body - the de facto board of directors of the auditor-general's office - met in Cape Town for four hours as a result of the controversy surrounding the multi-agency investigation. 

It consists of eight MPs and three outside experts, chaired by ANC MP Pallo Jordan. 

Fakie's report found deviations from accepted practice 

The commission was fully briefed by Auditor-General Shauket Fakie about his role in the investigation and on his office's interaction with members of the executive, Jordan said in a statement. 

"The Audit Commission wished publicly to re-affirm its full confidence in the Auditor-General Shauket Fakie and in the Auditor-General's office as led by him. 

"The Audit Commission affirms its commitment to the independence of the Auditor-General's Office, as prescribed by the Constitution, and is satisfied that at no time has the integrity of the Auditor-General's Office been impaired or compromised," Jordan said. 

The commission was also confident that the auditor-general's office would conduct a comprehensive and thorough investigation of the arms deal "consistent with the high performance standards that office has displayed". 

Earlier this month, in a hard-hitting letter to the chair of parliament's public accounts committee (Scopa), Gavin Woods (of the IFP), Zuma accused the committee of misdirecting itself and was also critical of the auditor-general's office. 

Feinstein would not comment about his talk with Doidge 

This followed statements by four senior cabinet ministers that Fakie's special review of the arms deal tabled in parliament was based on misunderstanding and ill-informed and wrong conclusions. 

Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin and Public Enterprises Minister Jeff Radebe said the review was not based on all the facts and was "too cursory to do justice" to the issues. 

They claimed the review unjustifiably queried government's integrity, giving no concrete facts suggesting corruption. It also reflected a lack of understanding of the acquisition process. 

Fakie's report found there had been material deviations from generally accepted procurement practices and recommended, in the light of the many allegations of possible irregularities in contracts awarded to subcontractors, that a forensic audit be conducted. 

This was denied by the auditor-general's office. 

Some MPs, including the Pan Africanist Congress' Patricia de Lille, said they believed the ministerial attack was unconstitutional. However, this view was not shared by Fakie. 

In terms of the Constitution, all organs of state should protect the independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness of Chapter 9 institutions like the A-G, which are state institutions supporting democracy. 

In a statement last week, Fakie stood by his special review. 

He also rejected media reports that he had changed his stance on the involvement of the Heath Special Investigating Unit in the probe. 

Fakie said he had backed Heath's inclusion on the grounds that its skills and experience could add value to the investigation. 

However, the decision to include or exclude Heath was a presidential one and if President Thabo Mbeki rejected the unit, the other agencies would continue. 

Also on Tuesday, a sub-committee of Scopa - tasked with ironing out differences of interpretation within the committee about whether Heath should be included in the probe or not - met briefly in parliament. 

According to Woods, the group met to discuss the agenda for their meeting scheduled for next Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, Andrew Feinstein, an ANC member of parliament, was still considering his future after being sidelined by his party on Monday. 

Speaking after an hour-long meeting with ANC deputy chief whip Geoff Doidge in Parliament, he said: "I am no nearer to a decision". 

On Monday he said he would have to reconsider his position on the committee and parliament. 

This followed the decision by party bosses to replace him with Doidge as chair of the ANC's key study group on public accounts. 

The move has been viewed as another attempt by the executive to take control of the probe Feinstein, along with Woods, drove the committee process. 

Feinstein would not comment about his talk with Doidge, saying only that the deputy chief whip had asked for the meeting. 

With acknowledgement to Sapa and Independent Online.