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Highlights from the arms deal report

Three months and three weeks after receiving the final report of the Seriti commission into the ever-controversial arms deal, President Jacob Zuma released it in full on Thursday.

The report runs to 767 pages over three volumes, with the findings interspersed with an analysis of evidence.

In those dispersed findings the commission held that:

  • There were various officials involved in the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages (SDPP) process;
  • There was no evidence of outside influence, bribery, or corruption in the procurement;
  • None of the critics of the deal presented believable evidence of wrongdoing in the deal;
  • There is no reason to cancel any of the arms deal contracts; and
  • There should be no further investigation of the allegations.

This is, verbatim, what the commission told Zuma.

[635] The evidence tendered before the Commission indicates that the various officials of the DOD, Armscor, the DTI and the National Treasury who were involved in the acquisition process, acted with a high level of professionalism, dedication and integrity. Despite the fact that numerous allegations of criminal conduct on their part were made, no evidence was found or presented before the Commission to substantiate the allegations.

[654] The evidence presented before this Commission does not suggest that any undue or improper influence played any role in the selection of the preferred bidders who ultimately entered into contracts with the Government.

[659] Despite the fact that various allegations of fraud, corruption or malfeasance were directed at Government officials and senior politicians, no evidence was produced or found to substantiate them. They thus remain wild allegations with no factual basis.

[663] Various agencies investigated the possible criminal conduct of some of the role players in the SDPP, and no evidence was found to justify any criminal prosecution. There is no need to appoint another body to investigate the allegations of criminal conduct, as no credible evidence was found during our investigations or presented to the Commission that could sustain any criminal conviction. The Commission has carried out an intensive investigation, and other local and foreign agencies have investigated the possible criminal conduct of people who were involved in the SDPP. No evidence of criminal conduct on the part of any person was found.

[685] Various critics, including Mrs de Lille, Mr Crawford-Browne, Dr Woods, Mrs Taljaard and Dr Young, testified before the Commission and could not provide any credible evidence to substantiate any allegation of fraud or corruption against any person or entity. They have been disseminating baseless hearsay, which they could not substantiate during the Commission’s hearings.

[688] We are of the view that another investigation into the SDPP acquisition will not serve any purpose.

[698] In our view, the process followed in the SDPP from its inception up to Cabinet approval of the preferred bidders, was a fair and rational process. The decisions of the Cabinet were strategic in nature and policy-laden.

[731] The undisputed evidence is that the principle that defence spending is ‘needs-driven and cost-constrained’ was generally applied in the whole process.

[746] It is clear that the role of Parliament in the SDPP process was that of oversight, and the evidence confirms that it did exercise the necessary oversight over the process. Consequently, no irregularity was committed in not obtaining prior parliamentary approval for the SDPP.

[762] Finally, besides the practical difficulties which would ensue if the contracts concluded pursuant to the SDPP procurement process were cancelled, there is no evidence which suggests that the contracts concluded pursuant to the SDPP procurement process are tainted by fraud or corruption.

[763] There is no basis to suggest that the contracts should be cancelled.

[764] We have in paragraph 664 of this report given reasons why it would serve no purpose to recommend that the allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption in the SDPP be referred to another body for further investigation. The only other aspect of the SDPP procurement process that could be considered for further investigation is the deviations from standard procurement policies and procedures. We have, however, heard evidence from senior Armscor officials that, following the JIT and Auditor-General investigation reports, the procurement policies and procedures have been overhauled and new policies put in place which now guide procurement of all military equipment. In view hereof, we deem it unnecessary to make any recommendations in this regard.

View the M&G’s special report on the arm’s deal:

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Phillip De Wet
Guest Author

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