Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2003-09-05 Reporter: Nigel Bruce

Criticism 'Based on Spurious Allegations'


The Star

Date 2003-09-05


Nigel Bruce

Web Link


In The Star of August 22, you accuse me and the Democratic Alliance of making spurious allegations in haste for cheap political point-scoring.

Your reasoning is based on incorrect information and your summary of the point of dispute between me and the auditor-general (AG) is wrong.

I did not say that the AG had failed to disclose an irregularity. I asked where in the report the facts were recorded for they amounted to much more than an irregularity. I cannot recall mentioning that ADS was given sight of a rival company's bid.

I did, however, say that the letter made clear that ADS was allowed to alter its bid after submissions had been closed - and that is, in fact, the case.

The letter did not get wrong the closing date. It is not mentioned in the letter at all.

In the same edition of The Star you carried a report by Andre Koopman who spoke to me on August 21 but who clearly did not want to listen to what I had to say.

I told him that the unsuccessful bidder had a document that clearly stated that its bid had to be lodged by 5pm on August 15 1999.

The tender co-ordinator, the German Frigate Consortium (GFC) had until 9am on April 16 1999, to submit them to government. None of this was carried in your report, despite a statement being sent to you by me setting out the facts in detail.

Leaving aside the question of equity, I doubt if the GFC was able to lodge the ADS revised bid by 9am on the day the letter was dated.

The AG has pointed out, subsequent to last week's hearing of the public accounts committee (Scopa), that references and some details of this particular tender were included on three different pages of the JIT report.

That is so. But without the letter that has subsequently come to hand, it is difficult if not impossible to piece together what actually happened, to grasp the seriousness of the inequity and to understand the subsequent events that have a profound bearing on the matter.

The JIT refers to part of the process surrounding the tender as being "unfair" and concludes that "although the process of tendering was not investigated in respect of all subcontracts, there is nevertheless evidence that a fair and regular process was followed regarding certain subcontracts".

That suggests that no more than "unfairness" or a minor misdemeanour occurred.

The AG did not deal decisively with these allegations, as you claim. In fact, the way his report handled this matter could open itself to an accusation of a deliberate attempt to dissemble the facts about a very serious matter that could have civil as well as criminal implications.

The letter in question was raised at the hearing not as "new" evidence but because it had relevance to the subject under discussion, which was the integrity and adequacy of a report that differed from the draft that had been submitted to the cabinet for its scrutiny. A letter which the AG had in his possession since May 10 2001 could hardly be new evidence.

If you refer to the record, you will see that I made no accusations nor did I indulge in any embellishments. I asked where in the report the facts, as they now appear from the letter, had appeared.

The report fails to record that after ADS, a member itself of the GFC as well as being a subcontractor, decreased its tender on May 7 1999, and it was allowed to raise it again.

On this matter, the JIT report failed as a forensic audit. On how many other occasions has it failed? Until all the drafts of the report are made public, this is going to be difficult to assess.

I find it difficult to understand how you can describe this matter as "cheap political point-scoring". In fact it is your criticism of me that appears to have been in haste and based on spurious allegations.

Nigel Bruce,
MP Democratic Alliance spokesperson on public accounts
The National Assembly
Cape Town

With acknowledgements to Nigel Bruce and The Star.