Auditor-General Criticised for Arms Deal Probe
South Africa was only now beginning to gain access to information about the multi-billion rand arms deal which the Auditor-General (AG) has long sought to keep from the public and from Parliament, says former Public Accounts chairperson Gavin Woods.
Woods, finance spokesman for the Inkatha Freedom Party and who resigned as public accounts chairperson in protest at what he viewed as the poor investigation report into the arms deal, said in a statement that "for a full year a few of us in Parliament fought to have the truth revealed about the arms deal".
"In this regard one of our biggest challenges was to ensure an honest and expert investigation into the deal," he said.
His comments follow a report in Business Day which said it was now clear that the final report on the 60 billion rand deal - given to Parliament after an investigation by the AG Shauket Fakie, the public protector and the prosecutions chief - was heavily edited.
"My critique of the investigators report and its strange and studious evasion of the issues, which were likely to have shown up the incompetence, manipulations and dishonesty within the deal has never been contested by anyone including the Auditor General," said Woods.
He added that there were inappropriate associations between the AG and members of the cabinet "the very people who were responsible and therefore also under investigation" during the course of investigation "gave scope to the grossly misleading and evasive report which was produced" on the deal.
"We now begin to access information which the Auditor General has long sought to keep from the public and from Parliament," said Woods.
"As other sections of the original draft report and other emerging evidence becomes available as it no doubt will, the real levels of irregularity which pervaded the arms deal and cost the South African taxpayer many extra billions of rands will become clear."
"As such members of the executive, the Speaker, the ANC whippery and ANC members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) will have much to answer for."
Fakie told Business Day that taken as a whole and not considering only selective parts of it, the draft report and the final report on the deal conveyed the same message.
"For those aspects, which were not included in the final report, there were good reasons for including these ... It was part of our review process where, in our view, matters that lacked adequate evidence or had to be further followed up by the national director of public prosecutions for further possible criminal investigation were left out of the final report."
The Business Day report stated that omitted in the final report was a section titled "inaccuracies in the presentation to Scopa".
This included the claim by Chippy Shaik, the former arms acquisition chief, that a winning contractor, African Defence Systems (ADS), had no connection to a French arms giant Thomson when the contract was awarded.
Shaik told Parliament that ADS - a company now part owned by his brother Schabir - had no links to his brother at the time the contracts were submitted.
It was claimed that Schabir gained an interest in ADS only after Thomson - the SA subsidiary of which is a director and shareholder - bought the company from Altech.
Business Day reported a draft report - issued to losing arms bidder Richard Young - as saying: "This is not correct, Thomson International bought the first 50% of the shares on ADS on 24 April 1988."
With acknowledgements to Donwald Pressly and the Business Day.