AG finds flaws in R30bn arms deal

OWN CORRESPONDENT AND REUTERS, Cape Town | Thursday

DEFENCE Minister Mosiuoa Lekota is to forward Auditor-General Shauket Fakie’s special report on South Africa’s controversial R30-billion arms deal to Cabinet for further action after Fakie recommended a probe into alleged irregularities in the deal.

Lekota gave no indication whether he would personally support Fakie’s recommendation that a special forensic audit be instituted into the deal’s subcontracts, saying that government could not be held responsible for any problems at subcontracting level, even if taxpayers’ money was involved.

On whether he believed that some government officials who were involved in the deal might be implicated in corruption, Lekota said he had yet to see evidence that a particular individual may have acted in bad faith.

Fakie said he was also concerned that the guarantees for national industrial participation may not be sufficient. His report questioned the impartiality of the negotiators and pointed out several lapses from accepted procedure.

“The fact that a non-costed option was used to determine the successful bidder (for the trainer jets) is, in my opinion, a material deviation from the original adopted value system,” the report said.

“This ultimately had the effect that a different bidder, at a significantly higher cost, was eventually chosen on the overall evaluation,” it added. “The explanation provided by the department of defence for this material deviation does not appear to be satisfactory.”

The contract was awarded to British Aerospace for the Hawk fighter trainers.

The controversial deal with Germany, Britain, Sweden and Italy, which was announced last September and involves corvettes, submarines, helicopters, trainer jets and fighters, has been dogged by controversy from the outset.

Opponents have said it makes no sense to spend so much money on arms when poverty remains endemic to the country, and question the value of the so-called offset deals involving industrial participation accompanying the package.

Maverick opposition politician Patricia de Lille said in parliament that bribes changed hands during the negotiations, but refrained from saying how much or who was involved.

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