Auditor general’s arms deal probe goes ahead

The Office of the Auditor-General is steaming ahead with its investigation into the government’s R43bn arms deal after another week of high political drama in which the president and top ministers again questioned the watchdog about the investigation.

Last Thursday Auditor General Shauket Fakie and the heads of the other two bodies probing the R43bn arms package — Public Protector Selby Baqwa and National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka — met the president and several Cabinet ministers.

Fakie declined to divulge details of the gathering, but it is understood that he and the other members of the investigation were questioned about the evidence they had at their disposal.

The Office of the President said several top-level “interactions” took place last week to give President Thabo Mbeki all the information he required before taking his decision over whether to grant a proclamation to Judge Willem Heath’s special investigating unit.

Mbeki decided the following day against issuing a proclamation to Heath.

The squabble over the inclusion of Heath in the investigation has drawn Fakie into a political fight, raising concerns that Fakie could have buckled to pressure from the government to back off from his previous position that Heath be included in the investigation.

The National Assembly’s audit commission, which is effectively the auditor general?s board of directors, will meet next week to discuss, among other things, the arms probe.

Fakie, whose office is protected from attack by other organs of state in terms of the Constitution, said yesterday his “constitutional mandate to strengthen constitutional democracy by auditing and reporting has never been and will never be jeopardised”.

Fakie said his stance has been “all along that should the unit be granted a proclamation, they would be part of the investigation as was indicated during the preliminary strategy meetings”.

He said: “It is not correct to assume that we have changed our position with regard to the Heath investigating unit. Our stance has been all along that should the unit be granted a proclamation, they would be part of the investigation as was indicated during the preliminary strategy meetings.”

Fakie, whose office will be steering the investigation, said he stood by his earlier report on the arms deal and confirmed the recommendations to conduct a forensic investigation, which is under way.

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Mungo Soggot
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Barry Streek
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