Publication: The Citizen Issued: Date: 2005-01-09 Reporter:

Arms Draft ‘Altered’



The Citizen



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New pressures are mounting on government for an independent probe into the multi-billion rand arms deal, as fresh controversy flared yesterday over the Auditor General’s report.

There is now evidence to suggest the final AG report may have been subjected to direct political interference.

The Democratic Alliance has called for a judicial commission of inquiry, and the ACDP wants government to take responsibility for the apparent cover-up.

“It appears that, despite the AG’s repeated denials, he was indeed forced to bow to political pressure from the executive, and in particular from President [Thabo] Mbeki,” DA defence spokesman Eddie Trent said.

“The controversy surrounding the arms deal will not go away until it is properly investigated by a judicial commission.”

The new controversy follows leaked extracts from a draft the AG, Shauket Fakie, supplied to defence contractor Richard Young in terms of a court order.

Mr Young said the draft showed the final version – which concluded there were no grounds to suggest the government’s contracting position was flawed – had excluded “fundamental and material” findings by investigators.

Commenting on behalf of the ACDP, the party deputy president Jo-Ann Downs said the new reports, if correct, would “most definitely” mean the saga of the arms deal would not end soon.

“It is a fundamental principle that the Auditor General’s office must be completely independent of any political influence.

“It is usual, before any report is finalised, to consult the head of department on any findings.” she said.

“It is highly unusual for the Auditor General to directly consult political heads, particularly where they might be implicated in the report.

“It is disappointing that the report on the arms deal would seem to have been substantially altered in both its tone and findings before release, despite the AG’s contrary reassurances to Scopa,” Downs added.

“These alterations were brought to light only after Mr Young obtained the original documents through a court order.

“The AG released these documents only with great reluctance.

“Absolute transparency on the part of the AG, Cabinet and the Presidency was necessary in conduct surrounding the arms deal.

“This has clearly not happened,” said Downs.

With acknowledgement to The Citizen.

Reports being changed, altered or “massaged” would “bring down any government in more established democracies”.