Timid voices


If the City Press and Rapport newspapers can be believed, the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association (AMD) has tabled before Directorate of Conventional Arms Control (DCAC)
the results of an industry survey slamming the regulator for inefficiency and incompetence.

The sister Sunday papers reported the woes included errors on permits relating to descriptions and model numbers of materiel, the names of countries arms are being exported to and the dates for which permits are valid; permits being “issued to the wrong companies”; permit applications being “misplaced”; the directorate’s failure to take responsibility for mistakes; a lack of specialised personnel; the directorate’s “obsolete” computer system and fears that it could crash; and, the directorate’s “retaliation” when arms companies complain. To this can be added inaccurate data provided – at the very least – to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. Who knows what reliance can be placed on the facts and figures given to Parliament.

This is a disgrace. I have heard the same – and worse – from industry executives for some years, so it is about time the matter is formally tackled. The South African defence industry (SADI) faces enough obstacles without the DCAC adding to them.

Therefore it is disappointing – if the newspapers can be believed – that the results have been so poorly received. DCAC spokesman, Tlali Tlali, said the directorate had found the survey “objectionable” due to “fundamental flaws” in the manner in which the survey was conducted by AMD. This is a standard dodge Of course he does not explain the objections or the flaws.

Fact remains the 23 respondents in the survey reportedly comprise the “major players” in the SADI. Anything they have to say, no matter how “unscientific” it might be to the big egos at the DCAC, needs to be taken seriously. Fast.

Tlali, the newspapers added, conceded that the directorate did face “capacity challenges in certain areas and that there is room for improvement”. However, he said that the directorate remained effective. Right…

Also disappointing is the response to the DCAC’s reposte: Does industry stand by the results of the survey, or not? The papers aver that after “discovering City Press had seen a copy of the survey, AMD executive director Simphiwe Hamilton claimed it was ‘not a final/cleared report due to fundamental errors and flaws’ that were identified after it was ‘circulated to some members of the association’. Hamilton said the directorate had, on three occasions this month, raised concerns about the manner in which the survey was being conducted and AMD ‘acknowledged that there were indeed flaws in our processes that rendered our findings incomplete and of no standing’.”

That rather comprehensively demolishes the survey findings. One wonders if a survey that carries the DCAC’s blessing will carry any credibility. So, if nothing improves, as is likely, industry will just have itself to blame for failing to stand by its own report. Bye bye baby!