Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2001-01-22 Reporter: Editor: Sapa

Woods Stands Firm in Arms Row

Publication  News24
Date 2001-01-22
Editor Sapa
Web Link

Cape Town - Parliament's public accounts committee chairman, Gavin Woods, on Monday insisted all political parties including the African National Congress wanted the Heath anti-corruption unit included in the multi-agency probe into the R43 billion arms deal.

Speaking in Constantia ahead of a four-day committee workshop, Dr Gavin Woods (IFP) said: "It is quite clear in my mind that every member of the committee was of the opinion that the report expressed the need and desire for all four of the agencies to be involved in the investigation.

"Any deviation from that position would be incorrect."

He was reacting to a statement by ANC members of the committee earlier on Monday that a resolution of Parliament did not single out any of the investigative units to be included in the probe.

Only 'Exploratory Meeting'

The chairman of the ANC's study group on public accounts, Andrew Feinstein, told reporters that the resolution in question recommended an "exploratory meeting" involving four agencies to be held within two weeks of the tabling of the committee's report in Parliament.

It said it recommended that the Heath Unit, the Public Protector, the Investigating Directorate of Serious Economic Offences (IDSEO) and any other appropriate investigative body, should be part of that meeting.

This did not mean that all four agencies had in fact been mandated to be part of the probe. The four were to have reported back to the committee, but events had since overtaken this, he said.

Contradicted by Woods

However, Woods on Monday again dismissed the ANC's view, saying the exploratory meeting was to ensure that all four investigating units were brought together, to see how best they could co-operate on the probe.

Feinstein earlier told journalists that at the time of the drafting of the resolution "it wasn't clear which units we wanted involved".

However, he did not exclude that the committee might at a later stage recommend through another resolution of Parliament that the unit become part of the probe.

This would only be possible once the necessary legislative amendments were made by Parliament in line with last year's constitutional judgment that the unit could not be headed by a judge.

Integrity Impugned?

Feinstein said the ANC wanted to see the arms probe, involving the auditor-general, the public protector and IDSEO back on track.

He skirted questions about whether he believed the committee's integrity had been impugned because of the criticism of Deputy President Jacob Zuma in a letter to Woods.

Feinstein said committee members had not seen the letter and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment at this stage.

If after considering the letters it was felt that the committee's integrity had in fact been impugned then it would respond. If necessary, Zuma could also be called before the committee to explain his views.

In his letter dated January 19, Zuma accused the committee of seriously misdirecting itself and arriving at decisions that were not substantiated by any facts.

Meanwhile, the ANC says it wants the committee to meet as soon as practically possible this week to exclusively discuss the issue.

Feinstein said the four-day workshop was not an appropriate forum as the formal business of the committee for the year, including 16 outstanding resolutions, needed to be finalised.

The ANC would ask Woods to convene such a meeting, which would be open to the media.

"We need to clarify the understanding of the committee and the way forward."

With acknowledgment to Sapa and News24