Arms Deal Probe Under Way Despite Reported Attempts to Derail It
Johannesburg (Sapa) - The head of parliament's public accounts committee, Gavin Woods, said on Sunday that the investigation into the government's controversial R43 billion arms deal is under way despite media reports that the ANC is attempting to scupper the probe.
A Sunday newspaper reported that African National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni was trying to squash the "super" investigation into the deal. The report, quoting unnamed ANC sources, said that Yengeni and other senior party members had told colleagues who sat on the public accounts committee that the probe was not in the interest of the party or the government.
Woods said on Sunday that the investigative bodies tasked with the probe had since a meeting on November 13 begun a full-scale investigation. The bodies involved are the public protector, the Heath anti-corruption unit, the investigating directorate: serious economic offences, and the auditor-general. They have formed a secretariat to co-ordinate their different activities and it appears to be "very organised and pretty purposeful", Woods said.
However, the Heath anti-corruption unit needs a proclamation signed by the presidency to begin its work, and it is hoped that this will come through in the next few days, Woods said, adding that in the interim the unit is positioning itself in terms of where it will come into the investigation.
He said the public accounts committee will receive reports once the investigation is complete and will present them to parliament. "We were hoping it would not take more than six months . . . but getting into an investigation of this nature, it's hard to predict."
According to the Sunday report, Yengeni attempted to pressure members of the public accounts committee, but was rebuffed by Deputy President Jacob Zuma. Zuma apparently told Yengeni to stop interfering after he reportedly refused to authorise travel expenses for members of the committee who travelled to Pretoria to meet the four investigating units. Yengeni later reversed the decision after Zuma intervened.
Similar allegations were levelled against Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, who dismissed them as a "litany of lies". On Sunday, ANC MP Pallo Jordan said he doubted the veracity of the report. "What the chief whip is doing or not doing - I have not yet read today's newspapers - but I would seriously doubt Mr Yengeni would want to play such a role."
Yengeni had kept well out of any activities of the public accounts committee. "So I don't see how he could be putting pressure on members of that committee," Jordan said. Yengeni's spokesman, Dennis Cruywagen, said he had not spoken to his principal. However, he repeated that there had been no attempt to stop the investigation.
A report allegedly drawn up by disgruntled ANC members, and leaked to PAC MP Patricia de Lille last year, fingered Yengeni and a host of other ANC leaders as having received kickbacks in the deal. Yengeni was formerly the chairman of parliament's joint committee on defence.
With acknowledgement to Sapa and Woza.