Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-06-05 Reporter: Shauket Fakie Editor:

'The President Did Not Ask Me to Change Anything'


Publication  Business Day
Date 2003-06-05
Author Shauket Fakie
Web Link

www.bday.co.za

 

Auditor-general denies that he came under pressure to materially change his report on the arms deal

In the past fortnight I have been under severe attack in Business Day for allegedly editing out information in the final report on the investigation into SA's arms-procurement deals and that I was influenced in this by the president and cabinet members. Frankly, the allegations are baseless.

Notwithstanding a statement I issued pointing out that the references claimed to have been excised from the report did, in fact, appear in that report, the paper continued to publish these allegations.

I also pointed out that matters which required further investigation had not been included in the final report but had been referred to investigating officers the director for special operations (DSO or Scorpions) that the investigations were continuing and a finding was still anticipated.

Despite these statements, Business Day continued to present inaccurate accounts of my conduct.

The allegations cover five issues

Inaccurate statements made to Parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) about ownership of ADS (African Defence Systems) this relates to statements by senior defence department officials to Scopa about ownership of ADS. The draft report noted that the department was incorrect in stating that in May 1998, when the German Frigate Consortium made its offer for the corvette contract, ADS had no connection with Thomson-CSF International but was a wholly owned subsidiary of Altech, in turn owned by Altron. Business Day claimed this information was omitted from the final report.

The final report makes it clear that Thomson-GSF obtained an interest in ADS in the previous month. The relevant statement in the final report (page 293, item 11.1.3.1(d)) reads "In April 1998, Thomson-CSF acquired 50% of Altech and the remaining 50% in February 1999".

On page 316, there is further elaboration under item 11.6.6.19 which states and this has to be read in the context of the rest of the report that "The failure to submit the said report on the Diacerto bus to the projects control board (PCB) has a bearing on the abovementioned statement to Scopa that the PCB ratified the selection of the Detexis product. Coupled with this is the fact that the PCB was not informed of the Thomson takeover of ADS (although this was apparently a known fact)".

Though this is couched in technical language and refers to pieces of equipment, it identifies for a person reading the full report the salient piece of information that Scopa was misinformed by the department of defence (DoD).

The CI product the allegation relating to this product, CI's information management system, revolves around the DoD's presentation to Scopa when it stated incorrectly that "at no point in the entire tendering process did the SA Navy indicate a preference for the CI product or technology ...".

The allegation is that the fact that this product was a "nominated" or "preferred bidder" was omitted from the final report. This is also untrue. Reference to this is made on page 309, item 11.6.4.2 of the final report "From the investigation it appears that, up to a point, the CI IMS was the preferred databus of the navy".

Minutes of the PCB again this relates to inaccurate information given by the DoD to Scopa. The DoD statement to Scopa stated that a meeting of the project control board on August 24 1999 (where the decision was taken not to bear the risk of the information management system by CI) was chaired by the chief of the navy. The minutes of the meeting state that the meeting was chaired by Mr S "Chippy" Shaik and there is no reference to the chair being handed to the chief of the navy. The allegation is that reference to this was omitted from the final report. However, item 11.6.7 on page 317 of the final report states that the "minutes therefore do not support the statements to Scopa that the chief of the navy chaired this meeting".

Gifts this refers to farewell gifts given to naval officers by ADS at a public function. The draft report states that this was referred to the Scorpions and the final report deals with this on page 290 "Those allegations that point to criminal conduct form the subject of an investigation, the contents of which are, for the reasons explained, not discussed in this report".

Since these allegations have been made, the national directorate of public prosecutions has issued a media statement confirming the fact that the investigations into these matters are still ongoing.

Referral to the president this was done under section 4 (6) of the Auditor-General Act of 1995. I believe that I have not limited the report in any way with regard to any irregularity or alleged irregularity. It has been suggested that I should have ignored this act, but obviously I am bound by the law, which, it should be noted, was passed with opposition support a year after our democracy was born.

The president did not ask me to change anything. With regard to the claim that I have failed to produce some documents, my lawyers are establishing with the complainant's lawyers what documents are required and these will be supplied.

Fakie is auditor-general.

With acknowledgements to Shauket Fakie and the Business Day.