Software Supplier Wants Access to Arms Package Papers
In the latest development regarding South Africa's controversial arms procurement package, CCII Systems managing director Richard Young has asked the Pretoria High Court to order that documents relating to a report on the Strategic Defence Packages (SDPs) be made available to him.
CCII Systems is a supplier of software and computer systems for defence applications. It was excluded as the supplier of subsystems for Corvettes which were ordered by the Department of Defence for use by the SA Navy. The company believes this exclusion to be unlawful.
The sub-systems were art of the SDPs. There was a joint investigation into the SDPs and a report was tabled in parliament in November last year. Young now wants the auditor general, public protector, the director of public prosecutions and the defence minister to give him information relating to the report.
The request was made in terms of the new Promotion of Access to Information Act. This is the first time a court is being asked to force the release of information under the Act.
Advocate Owen Rogers, SC, for Young, said his client wanted access to the draft versions of the report, and the reduced portion of the record relating to the acquisition of the Corvettes.
Rogers said auditor general Shauket Fakie had raised a number of sections of the act to prevent Young gaining access to the information. This included that some documents could not be disclosed.
Another argument against making the information available was that the documents were so voluminous that Fakie could not be expected to analyse them all to identify those which may not be disclosed.
Rogers said the act was there to promote openness, accountability and good governance.
Fakie, however, claimed that this was a strategy by Young to obtain the documents as he had instituted a claim against the defence minister, adding that the information has been requested to be used in civil proceedings instituted in August this year.
But Young stated that one of the reasons for his request was to establish whether there had been political interference in the finalisation of the report.
Advocate Sam Maritz, SC, for Fakie, said that Young did not have to go to court, and could have narrowed his request. But, he had an open-ended request which involved 700 000 pages of documents.
It was only now that Young reduced his request to asking for the reduced portion of the documents, Maritz said.
With acknowledgements to Zelda Venter and www.iol.co.za