Publication: Cape Times Issued: Date: 2005-01-11 Reporter: Sapa Reporter:

DA Calls for Judicial Probe into Handling of Arms Report  



Cape Times





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Pretoria - Only a judicial inquiry could get rid of the doubts about President Thabo Mbeki and Auditor-General Shauket Fakie following claims that the final report on the arms deal was watered down, the Democratic Alliance has said.

"Should the president fail to launch an investigation, he will send out a clear signal that his government is unable or unwilling to deal decisively with the mounting allegations of corruption that continue to surround the arms deal," DA public accounts spokesman Eddie Trent said in a statement.

"Only when these reports are properly investigated by a judicial commission will the cloud hanging over the executive and auditor-general be removed."

Trent said he had sent a letter to Mbeki asking him to appoint such a commission. It should probe suggestions in media reports that, under pressure from Mbeki and senior ministers, potentially embarrassing claims of irregularities and fundamental flaws were removed from the auditor-general's draft report on the multibillion-rand arms acquisition process.

"(The reports) suggest that despite (his) repeated claims to the contrary, the (auditor-general had) to bow to political pressure from the executive and in particular from President Mbeki. The reports also allege that President Mbeki personally made rebuttals to every allegation of irregularities in the arms deal report."  

If true, this would mean the independence and credibility of the auditor-general had been destroyed, the DA said.

"Furthermore, direct intervention by the president in what was supposed to be an independent report is a very serious allegation that needs to be fully dealt with as a matter of urgency."

Presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo said the DA request had not yet been received. Any such request would be sent to the minister of justice, who would make a recommendation to the president.

Two national newspapers published extracts on Friday from the draft report that the auditor-general had supplied to defence contractor Richard Young under a court order.

Young said the draft showed the final version had excluded "fundamental and material findings" by investigators.

Among the changes was the removal of findings that there were "fundamental flaws" in the selection of BAe and Saab as suppliers of jet trainer and fighter aircraft.

The final report also excluded a finding that the late defence minister Joe Modise influenced the decision to choose the more costly Hawk trainer rather than an Italian jet favoured by the air force.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and the Cape Times.