Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-05-28 Reporter: Linda Ensor

Fakie Had No Choice But to Limit Report



Business Day

Date 2003-05-28


Linda Ensor

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Auditor-General Shauket Fakie, under mounting opposition pressure over changes he made to the draft report of the arms deal probe, justified his actions yesterday, saying he had "no choice" but to limit the report.

But Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Tony Leon criticised Fakie's reliance on "unconstitutional" apartheid-era legislation, which he cited in his defence.

Leon said the DA would today move a motion in Parliament requesting the urgent formation of an ad hoc multiparty committee to investigate the renewed allegations about the arms deal. The committee should be empowered to call all those whose conduct had been questioned, as well as officials involved in the decision-making process.

Rebutting his critics, Fakie said the Auditor-General Act provided that reports on defence, security and secret services matters could be limited after consultation with the president, minister of finance and the responsible minister.

The act required reportage of irregularities except where their disclosure would undermine the national interest. Fakie said he had no choice but to comply with the act. He hit out at what he described as "inaccuracies and suspicions" regarding the editing of the final report.

Fakie denied the final report was silent on inaccurate statements made by senior defence officials to Parliament's public accounts committee and dismissed allegations the report did not mention that unsuccessful bidder CI was the preferred supplier to the navy. He said "full reference" was made to this issue in the report.

On the alleged failure to mention that Rear Admiral Johnny Kamerman had received a R7000 "gift", Fakie said this issue fell under the general ambit of those unspecified matters referred for further investigation.

Fakie strongly believed the draft and final reports had not been closely studied by reporting journalists either deliberately or as a result of oversight.

"This irresponsible behaviour has led to inaccuracies being published and a biased, unfair cloud of suspicion created against the auditor-general and his office.

"These inaccuracies will be brought to the attention of Parliament and Scopa (standing committee on public accounts)."

Leon said in a speech to the Cape Town Press Club that the section of the act relied on by Fakie was used by the apartheid regime "to hide certain military and intelligence programmes from the public".

Its constitutionality was clearly in doubt as the constitution required the auditor-general to make audit reports available to Parliament and did not provide for the withholding of information. 

With acknowledgement to Linda Ensor and Business Day.