Ministers had Their Say on Arms Report
Mail and Guardian
Tantalising indications of the extent of the intervention by Cabinet ministers in the drafting of the final report of the investigation into the arms deal have emerged from documents disclosed by the Auditor-General Shauket Fakie.
Among papers released to disaffected 1* defence contractor Richard Young, the Mail & Guardian has found handwritten notes regarding a meeting between the auditor general, President Thabo Mbeki and ministers Alec Erwin, Trevor Manuel and Misiuoa Lekota.
The meeting took place shortly before the report was due to be tabled in Parliament on October 25 2001 and apparently led to a delay while the final report was redrafted. The final report was released on November 14 2001.
Fakie has stated that he was legally obliged to consult the president, but no material changes were made as a result of any alleged pressure from the executive.
The notes, while cryptic, indicate that at least five new additions and findings were to be added, in response to issues raised by the Cabinet ministers.
A separate insertion in the same handwriting indicates two points were to be added to the overall conclusion : firstly, that "the joint investigation team found no evidence of impropriety, fraud or corruption by Cabinet, government or individual ministers" and, secondly, that "government cooperated with the investigating teams and assisted them with their endeavours". Both of these findings were contrary to evidence contained in the drafts.
The identity of the writer of the notes has not yet been established. They were found on a draft report made available to the Cabinet members. At that stage the report was made up of three separate drafts from the public protector, the auditor general and the director of public prosecutions.
At the time Beeld reported that Mbeki had "thrown back the report" at Fakie and that the ministers were not happy with the auditor general's section.
Notes on the draft indicated that the findings of the auditor general's team about the interference of late defence minister Joe Modise were to be substituted by the findings made by the public protector. The auditor general's draft findings found Modise's repeated intervention caused the Hawk jet trainer to be selected despite being double the cost of the preferred bidder.
The public protector did not mention Modise's role and found that the selection had been made by a ministerial subcommittee based on strategic considerations.
The notes indicate that each minister and the president made separate comments. A general concern reflected at the end of the notes was about the "future of the government" and that the report should "clear names of coy's [companies]".
Erwin spoke first and indicated that a written response to the draft report would be prepared "by Monday". Among 10 issues raised by Erwin was "allegations [against the] government". The note indicated : "will add".
Manuel spoke next. Among 10 issues raised, he asked : "was government reckless?" The answer noted was "no".
He was apparently also concerned that numerous allegations had not been laid to rest. A note indicated : "add to report".
The president then spoke, firstly apparently noting that the "country [was] emerging" and that it was important to "defend the integrity of inv. [investigating] agencies".
With acknowledgements to Sam Sole and the Mail & Guardian.