Publication: Business Day Date: 2005-02-11 Reporter: Linda Ensor

Fakie's Legal Bill Soars on Arms Row



Business Day




Linda Ensor

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Cape Town  - Litigation resulting from the arms deal investigation has resulted in the auditor-general's office forking out for ever-larger legal costs, with R543514 budgeted for the 2005-06 financial year. This is almost four times the R136589 set aside in 2002-03.

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Gavin Woods, former chairman of the standing committee of public accounts, asked yesterday if the mounting costs were a "fruitless and wasteful" expense.

Woods noted that a large portion of last year's R492884 legal bill was spent in battles to deny arms deal litigant Richard Young access to documents drafted by auditor-general Shauket Fakie and the joint investigation team.

Ultimately, Fakie was ordered by the court to make these documents available to Young. It then appeared alterations were made to draft reports to expunge any possibility of the arms deal contracts being jeopardised.

Fakie explained in documents submitted yesterday to parliament's ad hoc audit committee that the main driver of legal costs in 2002-03 was action taken against outstanding debtors.

In 2003-04, legal opinions relating to the formulation of the Public Audit Bill pushed up costs, while last year the main cost was "legal representation in dealing with arms deal access to information requests and court action arising therefrom".

Chairman Barbara Hogan resisted requests for Fakie to be called to explain the expenditure, saying it was "absolutely critical" that he defend himself in the light of the seriousness of the allegations and therefore the financial resources should be available for him to do so.

With acknowledgements to Linda Ensor and the Business Day.