Court Releases Arms Deal Documents
Richard Young won his court battle against the government when the Pretoria High Court yesterday ordered that certain documents pertaining to the controversial arms deal be made available to him.
Young, a supplier of specialised software and computer systems for defence applications, had applied to court for access to documentation pertaining to the investigation process and report.
He was excluded as a supplier of sub-systems to be installed on corvettes ordered for use by the SA Navy.
Young believed the exclusion was unlawful. Judge Willie Hartzenberg said the Auditor-General, Shauket Fakie, had 40 days to hand over all draft versions of the report submitted to parliament by the joint investigation team regarding the so-called Strategic Defence Packages for the procurement of arms for the SA National Defence Force.
Other documents include all audit files concerning the deal, ranging from January 1 1998 to November 20 last year, as well as documents pertaining to the de-selection of Young as a supplier of the Combat Suite’s Information Management System and the selection instead of the Detexis Diacerto Combat Suite Databus.
Fakie claimed the request for the documents by Young was too wide and that he did not have the manpower to sift through 700 000 pages. Some of the documents requested, Fakie said, were privileged information.
Hartzenberg said in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, Young was entitled to the information.
“With regard to the media coverage which this matter has enjoyed and the prominence of the members of the joint commission this is certainly a case where maximum access is necessary to dispel any suspicion of a cover -up.
“Young alludes to conflicts of interest and political pressure. If at all feasible, such suspicions must be put to rest.”
Regarding the documentation which could prejudice the defence force and government if the contents were to be disclosed, Hartzenberg said these must be identified and reasons must be supplied to Young as to why access to them should be refused.
With acknowledgements to Zelda Venter and Weekend Argus.