Publication: Sapa Issued: Date: 2003-06-18 Reporter:

AG to Report to Parliament on Arms Deal Claims




Date 2003-06-18



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Parliament's public accounts committee (Scopa) will await a special report from the Auditor General Shauket Fakie before probing allegations of editing and omission in the final report of the arms deal investigation.

Scopa chairman Francois Beukman said on Wednesday Fakie planned to submit the document to Parliament within the next 10 days. "We will get the special report and evaluate it and them determine how to proceed," he said.

If necessary, the committee may invite the AG to come before members to help "clear the air". Scopa is looking into claims the final report of the probe into the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal was heavily edited before being presented to Parliament in November 2001, and whether the committee was misled in evidence presented to MPs in 2000.

The arms deal was investigated by the Auditor-General, the Public Protector and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions. Fakie has since come under fire for reported "discrepancies" between a draft report submitted to the executive and the final report, prompting calls from the opposition for the probe to be re-opened.

The AG has rejected the allegations, saying the draft and final reports have not been closely compared, and that he was obliged by law to submit draft audit reports to the executive. While committee members agreed on the way forward on Wednesday, the deliberations on arms deal matters were again plagued by clashes between the African National Congress and opposition MPs.

The Business Day newspaper, which printed the allegations, came under fire at the meeting from the ruling party. ANC MP Billy Nair said a request from the DA to put the issue on the agenda was based purely on newspaper speculation, and argued the Business Day was biased against the ANC.

"Newspapers speculate, they engage in political propaganda." The committee should only look into the matter if new and substantive evidence to back up the media reports was presented to members. "Up until now we have nothing substantial and we are going to sit in judgement of something that is purely speculation," he said.

His party colleague Vincent Smith said Scopa's agenda had been dictated by the media, and warned against MPs casting aspersions on the integrity of the Auditor General. The DA's Nigel Bruce said the allegations followed a court ruling that draft reports of the arms deal investigation be made available to losing arms bidder CI head Richard Young.

"It is a matter of fact, not newspaper speculation." He said the committee had an oversight duty to probe the claims, and that the matter should not be brushed aside. Scopa is only expected to consider the AG's special report once MPs return from the winter recess, at the end of July.

With acknowledgement to Sapa.