Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2003-08-20 Reporter: Sapa Reporter:

Fakie: 'Major Collusion Needed'




Date 2003-08-20



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Auditor-General Shauket Fakie refuted suggestions on Wednesday that investigators of the arms deal could make conclusions in the final report that deviated from initial findings.

Replying to the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on media allegations of omissions in the final arms deal report, he stressed the document had to be signed off by three separate agencies.

"If anything was to be influenced, there had to be major collusion between the three of us, to be able to take anything out of the report or for any editing to take place," Fakie said.

The state's controversial multi-billion rand deal was probed by the AG, the Public Protector and the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions.

Scopa was questioning Fakie on claims that the final arms deal report was "heavily edited" and "doctored".

The AG said that, at any particular point in time, there were between 50 and 60 people working on the various chapters of the report, including up to five independent audit companies.

However, he acknowledged that the investigators did not have the time, or the expertise, to consider whether the R40m risk premium added to the cost of C2I2's offer to supply the combat suite for the Navy's corvettes was reasonable.

The department of defence's then head of acquisitions, Chippy Shaik, was found to have had a conflict of interest, in that his brother, Schabir, was linked to a company that won the sub-contract over C2I2.

Fakie said the practice of adding a premium to the price was normal, but the reasonableness of the premium - which effectively doubled the offer price - put to C2I2's offer was not tested.

The company's owner Richard Young is suing the government over the lost contract.

The AG denied claims that the executive had directly influenced the editing of the final joint investigation report (JIT).

"I want to state categorically that due process was followed and that no changes were made to the report based on pressure from the president or the executive."

Had the draft report been "secretly" referred to the executive, as some had alleged, this would not have been acknowledged in the final document.

The referral to the executive was part of the normal auditing process and was stipulated in the legislation governing the AG's office.

Fakie said he had at no time breached his mandate to Parliament or the Constitution.

"At no stage during the investigation did I do anything, or participate in anything, that would have breached any of my constitutional mandates that have been trusted upon me."

He also said it was up to the committee to decide whether there was any credence to calls for the investigation to be re-opened, but for his part, the AG's office would have no new evidence to add.

The three agencies presented their report to parliament in November 2001, finding no evidence of unlawful conduct by the state.

Fakie has since come under fire for reported "discrepancies" between a draft report submitted to the executive and the final report.

The hearing continues.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and News24.