Publication: Rapport Issued: Date: 2003-08-17 Reporter: Pieter Malan

Helikopterenjins Laat Vrae Oor Staatsaankope Verdiep

  Translation : Helicopter Engines Deepens Questions over Government Acquisitions

Publication 

Rapport

Date 2003-08-17

Reporter

Pieter Malan

Web Link

www.news24.com/Rapport

 

Die kabinet het klaarblyklik 'n regstreekse rol gespeel in die toekenning van 'n kontrak vir helikopterenjins vir die lugmag se nuwe ligte helikopters - enjins wat nie die helikoptervervaardiger ůf die lugmag wou hÍ nie en wat baie goedkoper elders gekoop kon word.

Luidens dokumente wat die afgelope week ingevolge die Wet op die Openbaarmaking van Inligting uitgereik is, het die politieke inmenging in die toekenning van die regering se veelbesproke wapenkontrakte veel dieper gestrek as wat verskeie ministers tot dusver wou erken.

Diť inligting, vervat in 'n transkripsie van ondersoekers se ondervraging van mnr. Sipho Thome, uitvoerende hoof van Krygkor, verskuif ook die korrupsie-soeklig weg van die vlootkontrakte na die toekenning van die kontrak vir dertig ligte nutshelikopters wat uiteindelik die Franse Alouette gaan vervang.

Die transkripsie vorm deel van 28 ringlÍers wat die laaste paar weke deur mnr. Shauket Fakie, ouditeur-generaal, aan die elektroniese ingenieur dr. Richard Young beskikbaar gestel is ingevolge die Wet op die Openbaarmaking van Inligting.

Young het Fakie vroeŽr met 'n hofbevel gedwing om die dokumente oor die ondersoek deur hom, die openbare beskermer en die direkteur van openbare vervolging na die wapentransaksie openbaar te maak omdat Young die dokumente nodig het vir sy hofsaak teen die regering. Young betwis die feit dat 'n kontrak vir elektroniese stelsels vir die vlootkorvette nie aan hom toegeken is nie.

'n Groot deel van die ondervraging van Thomo het gefokus op die toekenning van die kontrak vir die enjins vir die Italiaanse helikopters.

Uit die dokumente is dit duidelik dat sowel Augusta as die Suid-Afrikaanse Lugmag die enjins van die Kanadese maatskappy Pratt & Whitney verkies het.

Die kontrak is uiteindelik toegeken aan die Frans-Italiaanse maatskappy Turbomeca vir 'n enjin wat R19 miljoen per enjin duurder was as Pratt & Whitney s'n en wat die lugmag geglo het van swakker gehalte was.

Dit blyk duidelik uit Thomo se getuienis dat mnr. Shamin "Chippy" Shaik, hoof van aankope, daarop aangedring het om die spesifikasies vir die enjins in 'n baie laat stadium van die proses te verander, blykbaar om die toekenning van die tender ten gunste van Turbomeca te swaai.

Notules van Projek Kontroleraad (PCB), die liggaam wat die finale aanbevelings moes doen en wat in Thomo se ondervraging aangehaal word, dui daarop dat, ondanks die goedkoper en tegnies beter enjins van Pratt & Whitney, die "politici dalk nasionale strategiese punte kan opper wat verskil van die militÍre beoordeling".

Thomo verduidelik van hierdie "politieke probleme" verwys na die feit dat Suid-Afrika "in daardie stadium nie sake met Amerika gedoen het nie", 'n klaarblyklike verwysing na probleme in die laat jare negentig met die Amerikaanse regering oor Krygkor se oortredings van Amerikaanse sanksiewetgewing.

Dis nie duidelik hoe diť oorwegings 'n ooreenkoms met Pratt & Whitney se Kanadese filiaal sou raak nie. Die lugmag het in elk geval reeds sedert die middel jare negentig 'n noue verbintenis met Pratt & Whitney aangesien die Pilatus Astra-opleidingsvliegtuig toegerus is met hul enjins.

Dit blyk ook uit die ondervraging dat die PCB uiteindelik nie tot 'n ooreenkoms kon kom oor die keuse van enjins vir die helikopters nie en dat die besluit oor die enjins uiteindelik na die kabinet verwys is.

As dit korrek is, plaas dit 'n groot vraagteken oor die onlangse versekering van mnr. Alec Erwin, minister van handel en nywerheid, aan 'n groep redakteurs en senior joernaliste dat die kabinet "geen invloed op die keuse van subkontrakteurs gehad het nie" en dat alle kontrakte gesluit is tussen die hoofkontrakteur en die regering.

Shaik het Vrydag aan Rapport gesÍ dit is onmoontlik om enige gevolgtrekkings oor die proses te maak deur na 'n transkripsie van net een van die getuies te kyk.

Hy sÍ dit is korrek dat die lugmag die Pratt & Whitney-enjins verkies het, maar dat hul keuse slegs berus het op tegniese oorwegings.

"Die dokumente wys dit was ťk wat daarop aangedring het dat die ander oorwegings, soos die handel-teenprestasies, ook in berekening gebring word. Anders as wat nou beweer word, was dit ek wat wou verseker dat die proses tot die letter gevolg word.

"As ons met die tegniese komitee saamgestem het (wat die Pratt & Whitney-enjins verkies het) sou ons nou in groter moeilikheid gewees het."

Hy sÍ Denel en die verantwoordelike minister het ook voorkeur gegee aan die Turbomeca-enjin en moes ook geleentheid kry om hul saak te stel.

'n Belang van 51% van Denel se vliegtuigenjinafdeling is verlede jaar aan Turbomeca verkoop vir R30 miljoen, 'n verlies van R82 miljoen.

Shaik sÍ die besluit om die Turbomeca-enjins te koop is deur die PCB, waarvan hy die voorsitter was, geneem en nie deur die kabinet nie.

Die jongste onthullings laat die vrae oor die regering se wapenaankoopproses net verder verdiep.

In die geval van die helikopterenjins lyk dit of die regering die duurder, meer riskante enjin verkies het. In die geval van die tender van Young se maatskappy CCII Systems vir die elektroniese stelsel vir die vloot se korvette het die aankopers besluit op 'n duurder Franse stelsel omdat die plaaslik vervaardigde stelsel van CCII Systems na bewering 'n groter risiko ingehou het.

Dit is dus nie duidelik presies hoe die risikokriteria toegepas is nie. Dit versterk die vermoede dat politieke oorwegings baie sterker getel het as enigiets anders - veral omdat sowel die korvette se elektroniese stelsel as die helikopterenjins van Franse afkoms is.

Met erkenning aan Pieter Malan en Rapport.


Helicopter Engines Deepens Questions over Government Acquisitions

Cabinet apparently played a direct role in the awarding of a contract for helicopter engines for the air force's new light helicopters - engines which neither the helicopter manufacturer nor the air force wanted and which could have been purchased much cheaper elsewhere.

According to documents released during the last week pursuant to the Promotion of Access to Information Act, the political interference in the awarding of the government's widely discussed arms contracts has stretched much further than acknowledged by various ministers until now.

This information, contained in the transcript of the investigators' questioning of Mr Sipho Thome (sic), executive head of Armscor, shifts the corruption spotlight away from the navy contracts to the awarding of the contract for 30 light utility helicopters which will eventually replace the French Alouette.

The transcript forms part of 28 lever arch files made available during the last few weeks by Mr S Fakie, Auditor-General, to electronics engineer dr. Richard Young in accordance with the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

Previously, Young forced Fakie through a court order to hand over the documents of the investigation by him, the Public Protector and the Director of Public Prosecution in respect of the arms deal since Young needs the documents for his court case against the government. Young disputes the fact that a contract for electronic systems for the navy's corvettes was not awarded to him. A great part of the questioning of Thomo focussed on the awarding of the contract for engines for the Italian helicopters.

From the documents it is clear that Augusta as well as the South African Air Force preferred the engines from the Canadian company Pratt & Whitney.

The contract was eventually awarded to the French-Italian company Turbomeca for an engine costing R19 million more per engine than that of Pratt & Whitney's and which the air force believed to have been of poorer quality.

It clearly appears from Thomo's testimony that Mr Shamin "Chippy" Schaikh, head of acquisitions, insisted on changing the specifications of the engines at a very late stage of the process, apparently to swing the award of the contract in Turbomeca's favour.

Minutes of the Project Control Board (PCB), the body responsible for the final recommendations and quoted in Thomo's questioning, indicates that despite the cheaper and technically better engines of Pratt & Whitney, the "politicians could raise national strategic points which differed from the military judgement".

Thomo explains that these "political problems" referred to the fact that South Africa "at that stage did not do business with America", an apparent reference to problems in the late nineties with the American government regarding Armscor's contravention of American sanctions.

It is not clear how these considerations would affect an agreement with Pratt & Whitney's Canadian subsidiary. The air force has in any case had a close relationship with Pratt & Whitney since the middle nineties because the Pilatus Astra training aircraft were fitted with their engines.

It is also evident from the questioning that the PCB could not reach an agreement regarding the choice of engines for the helicopters and that the matter was eventually referred to cabinet.

If this is correct, it raises a big question with regards to recent assurance given by Mr Alec Erwin, minister of Trade and Industry, to a group of editors and senior journalists that cabinet "had no influence on the choice of sub contractors" and that all contracts were concluded between the main contractor and the government.

On Friday, Shaik told Rapport that it was impossible to reach any conclusions regarding the process by looking at a transcript of only one of the witnesses.

He said it was true that the air force preferred the Pratt & Whitney engines, but that their choice was based on technical considerations only.

"The documents show that I was the one who insisted that other deliberations, like the counter trade performance, be brought into consideration. Contrary to what is now being alleged, I was the one who wanted to ensure that the process was being followed to the letter.

"If we agreed with the technical committee (who preferred the Pratt & Whitney engines) we would have been in more trouble by now."

He said that Denel and the responsible minister also preferred the Turbomeca engine and was to be afforded the opportunity to state their case.

A 51% share of Denel's aeroplane engine department was last year sold to Turbomeca for R30 million, a loss of R82 million.

Shaik said the decision to purchase the Turbomeca-engines was taken by the PCB, of which he was the chairman, and not by cabinet.

These most recent revelations deepens the questions into the government's arms acquisition process.

In the case of the helicopter engines it seems that government preferred the more expensive and riskier engine. In the case of the tender by Young's company, CCII Systems, the buyers decided on the more expensive French system because the locally manufactured system by CCII Systems allegedly carried a higher risk.

It is thus not precisely clear how the risk criteria was applied. This strengthens the suspicion that political considerations had a stronger influence than anything else - especially since the corvette's electronic system as well as the helicopter engines are from French decent.

With acknowledgements to Pieter Malan and the Rapport.