Publication: Financial Mail Issued: Date: 2002-11-08 Reporter: Peter Honey Editor:

Access to Information : A Call to Arms

 

Publication  Financial Mail 
Date 2002-11-08
Reporter Peter Honey

 

Government's controversial report on alleged corruption in the multibillion rand arms procurement package is the centrepiece of a case that is scheduled to start in the Pretoria high court this week.

The case may also test the extent of the Promotion of Access to Information Act's powers to force government disclosure.

Cape Town technologist cum businessman Richard Young, who has pursued government with single-minded determination for years, claiming officials were bribed in the deals, wants to see if the president's office "softened" the investigators' report into the allegations.

The joint investigation team led by auditor-general Shauket Fakie, then public protector Selby Baqwa and director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka found some officials guilty of irregularities and conflicts of interest but concluded there was no evidence of improper or unlawful conduct.

The chief of defence acquisitions Chippy Shaik, whose brother Schabir was a subcontractor in the corvettes deal, was subsequently dismissed.

In November 2001, shortly after the report appeared, Young's military technology company, CI applied under the access to information act to see the draft of the report that allegedly went to President Thabo Mbeki before it was made public. The auditor-general refused on the grounds that the act exempts him from making such disclosure.

Young decided to test this in court. The case was due to start on November 7. Respondents are the three heads of the investigating agencies and defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota.

CI is a secondary contractor in the corvettes deal. It missed out, though, on the most lucrative subcontract, prompting Young to call foul .

The Institute for Democracy is expected to ask the court to be admitted as amicus curae to the application on the grounds that the information is in the public interest.

With acknowledgements to Peter Honey and Financial Mail.