Trent slams Parliament

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The official opposition Democratic Alliance party’s ranking member on the Standing Committee for Public Accounts (SCOPA) has slammed the Third Parliament’s handling of allegations of wrongdoing surrounding the 1999 Strategic Defence Package.
In his final speech to the National Assembly yesterday the pugnacious Parliamentarian said “the Arms Deal is South Africa`s “Inconvenient Truth”, a reference to former US vice president Al Gore`s pro-environment film.
“It [the SDP] has cost the country billions of Rand that were needed in the fight against poverty. It has destroyed the political career of one president, and threatens the career of another if the ANC is returned to power.
 
“The real problem was, of course, the cover-up. We now have explosive and compelling evidence that the report of the JIT [Joint Investigative Team] into the Arms Deal was fundamentally flawed. Yet I have been denied my right to present this evidence to parliament through Scopa – evidence which quite conceivably could have altered the course of investigations into the Arms Deal altogether,” Trent charged in reference to a decision by Scopa chairman Themba Godi on Tuesday that there was too little time left in the life of the current Parliament to probe evidence purported to support the allegations.   
“Madam speaker, the various draft JIT reports obtained via court order begin ominously; the editor of the report scribbles notes under three headings and three members of cabinet. Following this, handwritten alterations are made to almost every substantial finding in the draft reports. For example:
– Where the drafts pointed to fundamental flaws in the tendering contracts, the final report said ‘no impropriety`.
– Where the drafts pointed to interference from Ministers, the final report said no senior members of government could be blamed.
– Madam speaker, one heading that read “decisions of the Minister of Defence that could have influenced the process” was altered to read ‘the visionary approach of the Minister of Defence`(!)
 
“This matter cannot be left to rest,” Trent said. Media reports have suggested that former President Thabo Mbeki and a group of Cabinet ministers edited the report by cutting it down from about 900 pages to around 200 and substantially altering what remained.
Trent added that former African National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni was jailed for lying to Parliament. “The president of the ANC [Jacob Zuma] faces that charge right now.
“Yet at SCOPA, we have received false testimony from the former Public Protector, from the former Auditor General, from the former Head of Acquisitions at the Defence Department. None of these matters have even been discussed, let alone resulted in prosecutions. The inconsistency is breathtaking”.
The drafts of the final JIT report Trent mentioned was provided to Scopa by C2I2 CEO Richard Young, who had obtained them through a series of court battles related to him challenging the decision of the DoD to “deselect” a technology his company had helped to develop for the frigate programme. Other C2I2 technology was installed aboard the ships.           
Young has often publicly accused former Public Protector Selby Baqwa, former Auditor General Shauket Fakie of complicity in cover-up and former Head of Acquisitions at the Defence Department Shamin “Chippy” Shaik of criminal conduct. 
“If Parliament fails to deal with these matters and these individuals, then it has failed the people of South Africa,” Trent said.
ANC MP Joan Fubbs in response attacked Trent and Young, noting the latter had “in fact in the end accepted an out of court settlement.” She added that she found it “strangely disturbing that on the eve of 2009 elections he tries to validate some of these claims”.
Fubbs added that “we have never sought to submerge the truth. …if other roleplayers have done so then Mr Young is obligated to reveal exactly who these people are in a transparent manner and not in a manner which jeopardises the constitutional democracy”.



The MP added there “have been many challenges in the offset process but these are being corrected” and that the ANC some years ago “acknowledged the procurement processes were faulty and have taken measures to correct them.

“We should not forget that the Armscor acquisition policy was enacted pre-94. This has undergone a drastic review and led to the drafting of a new set of policies passed in 2004”.
Young responded by saying he was personally requested by Scopa to make written submissions on the matter in December. “This I did. I was then personally requested on 13 February 2009 by the Chairman of Scopa to provide documents for submission to Scopa. This I did at very substantial effort”.
At Tuesday`s hearing Acring National Director of Public Prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe and his Asset Forfeiture Unit head Willie Hofmeyr reportedly cautioned MPs on the allegations swirling around the SDP. Both repeatedly stated that there had been many allegations made and much information offered, which the DSO was duty bound to investigate. But in many cases the allegations lacked substance or admissible evidence.
Hofmeyr also cautioned against over-reliance on claims published in the media, saying MPs should not believe everything they read in the media and that some articles contained factual errors.