Publication: Independent Online Issued: Date: 2010-08-08 Reporter: Christelle Terreblanche

Arms deal report outrage 



Independent Online



Reporter Christelle Terreblanche
Web Link

The auditor-general and the public protector failed South Africans in 2001 by not coming clean on the substantive changes they allowed politicians to make to their final report on alleged arms deal corruption.

These strong words come from businessman Richard Young, who was told last week that his testimony would no longer be required by Parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) when it deliberates on new allegations of corruption in the government's arms-acquisition package.

Young questioned the conclusion of the troika of investigators appointed by former president Thabo Mbeki - then-auditor-general Shauket Fakie, former public protector Selby Baqwa and the national director of public prosecutions at the time, Bulelani Ngcuka - when they said no material or substantive amendments were made to their findings by the executive.

He obtained several of the draft versions of the Joint Investigative Team (JIT) report on allegations of irregularities in the arms deal through a court order after taking the government to court over its reward of a sub-contract to a French company.

Last year he submitted to Scopa 700-odd pages of drafts and documents to Parliament after it made a public call for new evidence in the decade-long saga of allegations that politicians and officials have benefited fraudulently from the R60 billion deal.

It coincides with Scopa's assessment of whether government departments and entities followed through on the recommendations made in the JIT report commissioned by Mbeki in 2000.

Young's copies of the draft reports point to possible interference by a ministerial committee to sanitise the JIT report.

Among the changed portions are allegedly findings that indicate manipulation in choosing the final bidders, according to documents released by the DA last year.

Young told Independent Newspapers that the drafters had "cynically manipulated the report in the way that a ministers' committee ordered".

"I would say the arms deal was the biggest act of corruption at that time, but the report's cover-up is the biggest act of fraud yet against the people of South Africa," Young charged.

"The documents before Scopa are proof of that."

It includes a transcript of a two-day hearing held in Parliament after the finalisation of the report in which both Fakie and Baqwa deny that they were told to alter their report, except to accommodate matters of national interest and make it readable.

"Because of the changed report the cabinet could wash its hands of any wrongdoing in the arms deal," said Young.

Neither Baqwa nor Fakie - who both have executive positions in the private sector now - could be reached for comment.

Allegations that Mbeki's office was involved in the changes to the final draft have made headlines since 2003 and at one stage prompted Fakie to plead with Parliament to help protect the integrity of his office.

Young said the names of arms-deal agents who were later investigated for fraud and bribery in Britain and Germany for graft were in the draft reports, but omitted in the final report.

"You can look at the original and it says that the minister (of defence, the late Joe Modise) interfered in the Hawk and Gripen tenders. I would say that the final report was fundamentally flawed."

With acknowledgements to Christelle Terreblanche and Independent Online.

If SCOPA doesn't deal with this fraud, for misleading parliament is fraud and that's exactly what this is, then this matter will have to be dealt with by the SAPF, that other great bastion of public watchdogging and crime prevention.

At least they were not involved in this crime, unlike the NPA and its then NDPP.

Of course the SAPF will have to release some of its resources which are presently more-or-less completely consumed in incarcerating and harassing Mzilikazi wa Afrika for practising baboon baiting in a public open space.

It's a wide open space with infinite targets.

Paul O'Sullivan, bless his soul, got one.

Bheki Jacobs, may he rest in peace, never quite got his.

There's unfinished business, let's get back to it.