Super Probe of Arms Deal Gets Under Way
Pretoria - One of the biggest investigations ever conducted into corruption in South Africa began behind closed doors in Pretoria on Monday as no fewer than five investigative bodies discussed how to probe the R43 billion deal for new weapons for South Africa.
Judge Willem Heath, head of the Special Investigations Unit into corruption, Auditor-General Shauket Fakie, Public Protector Advocate Selby Baqwa and representatives of the Investigations Directorate for Serious Economic Offences (Idseo) and the National Prosecuting Authority met with other interested parties to determine the structure of the forensic investigation into the weapons purchase.
Dr Gavin Woods of the Inkatha Freedom Party and chairman of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), Pan Africanist Congress MP Patricia de Lille who first levelled the allegations of corruption three years ago, and Dr Terence Nombembe, senior executive officer of the office of the Auditor-General, started with the closed meeting shortly after 2 pm.
After the meeting Woods said it would be followed up within the next day or two by a further meeting - probably on Wednesday - during which the legal mandates of the various investigation units would be considered.
"Guidelines will also be set down, according to which the investigation will continue. A document of co-operation will be drawn up and presented to the committee for approval. This will establish the basis of co-operation from here forward."
He said there were various similarities between the investigating units that would simplify co-operation. Woods said before the meeting that if all the allegations which had to be looked into turned out to be true, the possibility existed that the investigation could become the biggest of its kind ever held in South Africa.
"But we hope that not all the allegations are true." He said it was still impossible to say exactly how long the investigation would take, but he was hopeful it would be completed in six months time. "That will depend on what is uncovered." IDSEO to handle probe?
It is believed that among the suggestions submitted on Monday was that the Investigation Directorate for Serious Economic Offences rather than Heath's Special Investigation Unit should conduct the investigation. The reason was that the Directorate could start its work more quickly than Heath, who first needs a proclamation signed by President Thabo Mbeki in order to give him the go-ahead.
Last month Scopa released a report in which a so-called "super" investigation into the allegations was requested. The committee also strongly criticised the Cabinet after it appeared that the original costs of the contracts had increased from R30 billion to R43.8 billion over the last year without this possibility ever being publicised.
In the same report the committee said it believed that an "unwelcome" influence was exercised in the awarding of certain of the contracts. The committee's report followed one by Fakie in which he found that certain guidelines that had been set down had not been adhered to in the awarding of the contracts. He also found that there was a suggestion of further irregularities in the awarding of sub-contracts and he recommended a thorough forensic investigation.
With acknowledgement to Erika Gibson and the Beeld.