Plan for Public Arms Deal Hearing Causes Concern
THE national director
of public prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, and public protector Selby Baqwa are
pushing for a public hearing into the R43bn arms deal, raising fear that this
could jeopardise a full-blown investigation.
public accounts committee had asked Ngcuka, Baqwa and Auditor-General Shauket
Fakie to jointly investigate the arms deal. The request was made about four
months ago, but a source said yesterday a decision on how exactly they would
divide aspects of the investigation would be taken on Monday when Fakie, Ngcuka
and Baqwa meet. The source said the reason for the delay was unclear, but
suggested that the three agencies had their "plates full" dealing with
other issues. The Heath special investigating unit was to have been part of the
probe, but the executive blocked its involvement.
The source said that
there remained a lack of clarity on who would investigate the deal's
subcontracts the area where government has faced the most serious allegations. A
decision on who would handle the subcontracts probe would also be taken at
The source said Fakie
had an open mind on the idea, and believed that the advantages and disadvantages
of public hearings should be considered at the meeting.
Congress MP Patricia de Lille criticised the plan. She knew that
parliamentarians convened public hearings, but she had never heard of
investigators doing so. People with information on alleged corruption would not
be so "stupid" as to go to a public hearing, she said.
It is understood that
Ngcuka came up with the idea, and was supported by Baqwa. They apparently
believe that a public hearing would signal transparency. Witnesses would give
evidence, and those accused would be given an opportunity to respond. Critics
fear that this could turn the probe into a "public circus" and put
lives of witnesses at risk.
The source said the investigation was at the
stage where documents were being sought from various entities, including
government departments. The exact size of the investigation team would be
finalised on Monday. Investigators needed security clearance from official
agencies. The process of getting this was under way, the source said.
acknowledgement to Farouk Chothia and Business Day.