Arms Deal Report Best Under the Circumstances - Fakie
Auditor-General Shauket Fakie pointed to a range of weaknesses in the multi-agency investigation into the arms deal yesterday, but stood by his belief that it produced a good report and was the "best we could have done under the circumstances".
The probe by Fakie's office, the National Prosecuting Authority and the public protector became embroiled in controversy after they presented their report to Parliament in November 2001 amid allegations of a cover-up for the African National Congress (ANC).
His comments yesterday provided, for the first time, his insight into the flaws in the process, although he continued to stand by the outcome.
Fakie said yesterday at a conference in Johannesburg on combating corruption in southern Africa that there were important lessons for Parliament, the media and investigators to learn from the arms deal experience, not least of which were the constraints imposed by the short time period set aside for the investigation and the political pressure placed on investigators.
Fakie said he believed government did not give itself enough time to finalise the arms procurement process, so "decisions were rushed through and corners were cut".
"Certain government principles were flouted, proper signed minutes were not available, (there were) failures by members to recuse themselves and conflicts of interest."
"Certain policy and procurement procedures had so many holes, or were not followed, making it impossible to hold someone accountable," he said.
The first problem encountered by investigators was the lack of a mandate from parliament, he said.
"We had to determine the scope and nature of the investigation, and we did it to the best of our ability and the information we had at our disposal."
This resulted in "a gap between what we did and what some members of Parliament wanted us to do".
Fakie said there were a lot of expectations from political parties and the public about the outcome of the investigation, which placed investigators under pressure. In this regard, the media played a big role, often writing about issues "without the full information at their disposal".
"There were expectations that this inquiry would bring the ANC to its knees * and politicians expected investigators to provide the information," he said.
There was also a misunderstanding about the powers his office had.
"The auditor-general's office reported on the allocation of funds; we did not have the power to prosecute someone or to institute disciplinary action **," he said.
With acknowledgements to Chantelle Benjamin and Business Day.
* If the investigation was done properly then it would have brought the ANC and the Government to their knees.
** That's exactly why the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was not given a presidential proclamation to investigate - because the SIU had the power, in terms of the Special Investigating Unit and Special Tribunals Act of 1996, to both institute civil actions and to set aside civil contracts. That's why I have to go it alone at great expense in terms of time and money and it's making the Government mad, mad , mad.