SCOPA to act quickly on SDP

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) is calling on all those who say they have hard evidence of irregularities relating to the 1999 Strategic Defence Package to contact it and give evidence in its latest probe into the controversy-dogged equipment acquisition programme.
The SDP, now valued at R47 billion by the National Treasury, saw SA gain four sophisticated frigates, three state-of-the-art submarines, 26 Generation 4.5 fighter aircraft, 24 of the latest fighter trainers and 30 light utility helicopters.
The Cape Times reports that SCOPA yesterday decided it wanted to lay to rest the controversy before the current Parliamentary term ended. SA is expected to go to the polls next April.  

MPs agreed that it would be in the best interests of the country and all involved if the matter was laid to rest as speedily as possible, the paper reports in its morning edition today.

African People’s Convention MP and SCOPA chairman Themba Godi says various individuals have said in media reports that they have new information regarding irregularities. He says they should come forward and present their evidence to the committee.

SCOPA African National Congress leader Vincent Smith said his party would have “no problem” with calling anyone, including former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein – the author of the anti-SDP book After the Party – and C2I2 CEO Richard Young to present fresh evidence.

Smith said it was important for Parliament to test the validity of any information before it could be accepted as sufficient evidence.

The Cape Times says Smith was supported by IFP MP Hennie Bekker, who agreed that Parliament should not rely on newspaper articles and “rumour-mongering”, but rather hard evidence.
“If there is any substantial information this matter must be pursued – we must cut through to the bone,” Bekker said.

Godi told the paper he would be writing to various departments seeking information on progress of their own investigations.

The committee mandated Godi to write to the National Prosecuting Authority, the departments of defence, public service and administration, trade and industry as well as the National Treasury and state arms company, Armscor.
“We are asking for information they supposedly have. It should not drag on,” Godi said.

President Kgalema Motlanthe earlier this month told Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille he might appoint a judicial inquiry into the SDP. The decision would in part be informed by the outcome of the SCOPA process. Motlanthe said at the time that there was no point in duplicating processes.

The SABC reports that there are fears in unspecified quarters that if not resolved, the SDP would become an issue in the 2009 election.    
Young, who admits to providing much of the information on the alleged irregularities to Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille and to various newspapers, could not be reached for comment by deadline.