Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-08-05 Reporter: Tim Cohen, Paul Kirk

New Arms Documents Show More Editing Cuts

 

Publication 

Business Day
Letters Correspondent

Date 2003-08-05

Author

Paul Kirk, Tim Cohen

Web Link

www.bday.co.za

 

Section on inaccurate information' supplied by Chippy Shaik is omitted

Early drafts of the joint report into the arms deal included a section suggesting cabinet ministers may have been misled by the arms procurement team.

However, a short section entitled "Inaccurate information supplied to the subcommittee of cabinet ministers" was omitted from later drafts of the joint investigation team report compiled by the auditor-general, the public protector and the directorate of public prosecutions.

This section was not contained in later drafts of the report after investigators questioned the ministers, who testified that they did not consider themselves to have been misled.

Even so, a key opponent of the procurement process has expressed scepticism about the omission, which apparently mirrors a set of misrepresentations made by the head of the arms procurement team, Chippy Shaik, to Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

The section's existence has come to light following a heated court battle between arms company CI and the auditor-general's office over the terms of an Access to Freedom (sic) of Information Act application. The auditor-general supplied the company with thousands more pages of draft versions of the report last week after losing a case in terms of the act earlier this year.

Some of these drafts include a reference to the section entitled "inaccurate information supplied to the subcommittee of cabinet ministers" but the section itself has been tippexed out of the documents supplied to CI .

Richard Young, MD of CI, has reacted furiously to the omission of the information, saying the deadline for the auditor-general to have handed over the documents had long passed.

"His actions have now metamorphasised from the realm of contempt of court to one of concealment. Concealing a record is a criminal offence.

"I will be ratcheting up my response appropriately to deal with what I believe is an act of concealment by the auditor-general and will be seeing my lawyers this week."

Young, whose company lost out on the contract to supply the combat suite for the navy's new patrol corvette, is suing the state for R150m in damages. He maintains he lost out on the contract because of rampant irregularities in the procurement process.

Auditor-General Shauket Fakie defended omitting the content of the section, saying investigators had dropped the section from sections of the report after investigating the allegations and deciding they were without substance.

They had done so by questioning the ministers concerned, who had said they did not consider themselves to have been misled.

Fakie says the Freedom of Information Act does not permit the publication of cabinet discussions and since this was a cabinet subcommittee meeting, he needed to exercise his discretion.

With acknowledgements to Tim Cohen, Paul Kirk and the Business Day.