Publication: Issued: Date: 2001-12-05 Reporter: John Makoni and Sapa Editor:

Arms Deal : Govt will Remain in Clear says Ngcuka


Date 2001-12-05
Reporter John Makoni and Sapa
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National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka has said that although many people were still being investigated for allegations of wrongdoing in the multi-billion rand arms deal, the government would regardless still remain in the clear.

Ngcuka, Auditor-General Shauket Fakie and Public Protector Selby Baqwa stood by their main finding in the report that the government's contracting position was not flawed, answering questions before a joint sitting of seven Parliamentary committees on the report into the arms probe yesterday.

Ngcuka said that even if all allegations still being investigated proved true, this would not affect the report's main finding.

"We are very comfortable with the finding, I'll put my neck on the block on this."

He was answering questions from Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Raenette Taljaard who asked Ngcuka if it was not premature to conclude the government had been cleared when investigations were continuing.

The investigators had not found any link between officials still under investigation, for possible conflicts of interest, and the politicians involved in the process.

Should evidence arise of anyone involved in wrongdoing, they would be prosecuted.

"As matters stand now, there are no grounds at all (to suggest contracts were flawed)... I don't know if any matters will arise now to make us change our view, but I don't think so," he said.

Ngcuka repeated that no single person could have affected the contracts "even if he received R100-million for trying".

The report on the investigation - tabled in Parliament last month - found no "improper or unlawful conduct" by the government, and no grounds to suggest its contracting position was flawed.

The three were facing extensive questioning from MPs on various aspects of the investigation, including the costs to the state and counter-trade or "offset" agreements.

On the escalating cost of the deal - given the sharp depreciation of the rand since the contracts were signed in late 1999 - Fakie said the issue of affordability should be taken up with Cabinet. This was not part of the JIT's focus.

The original cost of the deal was R30,3-billion, but due to the fall in the value of the rand this price - which excludes financing costs - had risen to R43,8-billion at the time of the 2001 Budget.

Recent reports have said the deal is now projected at around R66-million.

With acknowledgement to John Makoni, Sapa and