Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2001-11-16 Reporter:Bonile Ngqiyaza

Not a Solution, But it is Getting There



Business Day

Date 2001-11-16


Bonile Ngqiyaza

Web Link,3523,970652-6078-0,00.html


Many criticised report, but findings will reduce uncertainty for contractors

A blanket of criticism spread over the release of the report into SA's arms procurement programme, now estimated to cost about R66,7bn.

The findings, while angering interested parties and politicians, are expected to go some way in alleviating the uncertainty among contractors, many of whom are international players.

There have been warnings from analysts and successful bidders there was too much talk of corruption surrounding the deal and no evidence to back it up.

This, said bidders, had the potential to jeopardise similar deals with SA in future.

Analyst and a writer for Jane's Defence Weekly, Helmut RomerHeitman almost predicted the findings two weeks ago, when he stated in an interview his belief in the procurement's integrity.

Reading the report's preface the tenor and almost apologetic language give a preview.

"News," it says, "that an investigation is under way tends to create the expectation something bad will be found."

Romer-Heitman said commentators and parties interested in the deal "keep forgetting the background".

His remarks followed indications at the time that the deal involving trainer fighters might be challenged in court.

Italian company, Aermacchi planned to contest the deal in court because then defence minister Joe Modise changed tender evaluation criteria in mid-course.

Romer-Heitman said should such a challenge be successful, the financial and legal ramifications for SA would be too much.

Richard Young, CI Systems executive, said "a glance through the report shows the agencies have ruled in my favour.

"But it is very wishy-washy in terms of showing the way forward. In a cynical kind of way, the report has been cleverly written."

Young said the attention given to the chief of acquisitions, "Chippy" Shaik, could be "some kind of subtle indication I must go for (him) and African Defence Systems instead of government".

The report said Shaik was a government official , whose actions may have led to the perception the credibility of the acquisition process was compromised.

Bulelani Ngcuka, the national director of prosecutions, has promised after the tabling of the report yesterday to act swiftly.

Colm Allan of the Public Service Accountability Monitor said the most pressing question that of the economic justification for entering into the deal had not been adequately answered.

The costs had more than doubled from an initial R29,9bn to R66,7bn "with precious little to show by way of economic benefits or job creation," said Allan.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), the Pan Africanist Congress and the New National Party (NNP) all criticised the report.

NNP media director Francois Beukman could not resist taking a dig at his former partners in the DA, labelling a walkout during yesterday's presentation a "cheap political trick".

Although a report is out, one thing is clear the matter is not over . Several aspects are still under investigation.

And Ngcuka's unspecified action whenever it takes place might open another chapter.

With acknowledgement to Bonile Ngqiyaza and Business Day.