Publication: Issued: Pretoria Date: 2002-11-07 Reporter: Sapa Editor:

Young Goes to Court over Access to Arms Info


Issued  Pretoria
Date 2002-11-07
Reporter Sapa


Defence contractor Richard Young began his application in the Pretoria High Court on Thursday for an order to compel the joint investigation team probing South Africa's billion-rand arm deal to furnish him with documents related to their probe.

Young claimed the team was deliberately withholding information from him about the arms deal investigation process and report.

Young, who was "unhappy" about the final report tabled in parliament, at first wanted the investigators to hand over all documents relating to the investigation.

However, after realising that this would be over 700 000 documents, Young said he wanted access to all draft versions of the report and the reduced record.

Young claimed the team was deliberately withholding information from him about the arms deal investigation process and report.

Young is one of the first people to launch proceedings under the new Access to Information Act.

The respondents were listed as Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota as well as the investigators -- Auditor-General Shauket Fakie, former Public Protector Selby Baqwa, and National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka.

The arms deal was mired in allegations of irregularities and kick-backs, but the multi-agency probe found no evidence of "improper or unlawful conduct" by the government and no grounds to suggest its contracting position was flawed.

Young was the managing-director of Communications Computer Intelligence Integration Systems (CCII), a Cape Town-based defence information technology company. He contends there were irregularities in the awarding of a R43,8 million tender for information management systems used in the four corvette ships bought under the arms package.

CCII was named the preferred supplier of these systems, Young claims. The tender was, however, awarded to French company Detexis.

Young said he needed the information to assess the propriety of the selection of suppliers and the process by which the strategic defence packages were subsequently investigated. He also wanted to see "whether there had been political interference in the finalisation of the report".

Auditor General Shauket Fakie, however, accused Young of using the application as part of his strategy in his claim for damages against the Defence Minister and others.

Young's advocate, Owen Rogers, argued that instead of helping his client to get information to which he was entitled under the Constitution, the respondents were being deliberately obstructive.

Such a response, he said, did nothing to promote openness, accountability and good government.

"The Auditor General had more than three months to apply his mind to the matter of the reduced record. He does not explain his apparent failure to do have done so and it is submitted that there is no reason why he could not have done so. His attitude smacks of obstructive prevarication," he said.

Fakie's advocate, Sam Maritz argued that Young was "too quick on the draw".

He said Fakie had offered to consider Young's application for the information, but had asked him to prepare a fresh application on his new request. He said Young declined the offer and launched a court application instead.

Maritz pointed out that a host of issues needed investigating, including the confidentiality of information pertaining to defence contracts that were being executed at the moment.

The application continues before Judge Willie Hartzenberg.

With acknowledgement to Sapa.