Publication: Issued: Cape Town Date: 2000-10-03 Reporter: Editor:

Baqwa Wants to Co-ordinate Arms Deal Probes


Issued  Cape Town
Date 2000-10-03
Reporter Sapa


Public Protector Selby Baqwa wants an indaba with the auditor-general, the Heath unit and the Investigating Directorate: Serious Economic Offences, to co-ordinate investigations into the controversial R32-billion arms deal.

A spokesman for the public protector's office confirmed on Tuesday that Baqwa hoped the meeting would take place next month.

"We need to co-ordinate. We don't want to reinvent the wheel," he said.

Auditor-General Shauket Fakie in his report tabled two weeks ago highlighted material deviations from generally accepted procurement practice.

He also recommended a forensic audit into the deal's subcontracts, which fell outside the scope of his probe and which have been the subject of repeated corruption claims.

The report will be discussed by Parliament's watchdog public accounts committee on October 11.

The committee was also petitioned on Monday by critics of the arms deal who had implicated African National Congress politicians and their associates in alleged corruption.

In a letter to the committee, Terry Crawford-Browne of Economists Allied for Arms Reduction said the allegations challenged MPs "with an enormous constitutional crisis".

Naming some of the alleged beneficiaries, Crawford-Browne claimed they were party "to a massive international swindle".

The Heath anti-corruption unit is also expected to apply for a presidential proclamation soon to launch a formal probe into the deal.

It put its investigation on hold pending the auditor-general's report.

Meanwhile, a Cape Town businessman will keep a close eye on the investigations as he decides whether or not to sue the government for damages.

According to the Managing Director of CCII Systems, Dr Richard Young, his company was identified by the SA Navy as the preferred supplier for the Information Management System (IMS)for the four corvettes.

However, the IMS was subsequently deselected by the Project Control Board, chaired by Chippy Shaik, after assertions of risk by African Defence Systems (ADS), which was wholly-owned by French weapons manufacturer Thomson-CSF.

It was eventually replaced with the product of Detexis, a subsidiary of Thomson's.

According to media reports, Chippy Shaik's brother, Shabir, is a director of ADS, which also employs Chippy's wife.

The auditor-general in his report recommended a forensic audit into the matter.

Young told Sapa: "As MD, it is my absolute obligation to look after my company's rights".

"We are a small company taking on the might of the government, of ADS, of Thomson -- the third biggest defence company in the world.

"So it would be a great help to me if some sort of forensic audit or special investigation was undertaken and I could use that without initiating everything on my own."

Young said it was also difficult to accept that a national asset like the navy should have to accept the inferior product of a foreign company.

"This is not my own opinion, but a conclusion of the SA Navy's own technical investigation into this matter.

"Moreover, our deselection is even more astounding as this implies the replacement of a superior indigenous system with a foreign one, thereby undermining one of the basic tenets of the defence acquisition packages: local industrial participation, especially Defence Industrial Participation."

Young said he had investigated the matter for 18 months and had incontrovertible proof of irregular acquisition practices.

He had forwarded the evidence to the auditor-general, the Heath unit and lately to Baqwa on the recommendation of the AG's office.

"If the process doesn't go through on its own, at the end of the day I will have little alternative, but go to court myself, although this is something I have tried to avoid for over a year".

While he might not be able to achieve reinstitution, Young said he would almost definitely win damages.

"If it does have to go to court it cannot be other than extremely embarrassing for the (defence) minister, since he was presented with all this information (through the Defence Secretariat) and in the end a private citizen had to go ahead on his own steam."

With acknowledgements to Sapa.