After a less than two hour public session on its first day, the Arms Procurement Commission resumed in Pretoria today with the man behind it all calling for its closure because it will not achieve any results.
This follows yesterday’s opening remarks by evidence leader Matshego Ramagaga who said the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV), the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), Armscor and the National Treasury would make presentations on the rationale behind the acquisitions of front-line equipment for the SA Air Force (SAAF) and SA Navy (SAN).
The two arms of service and government’s acquisition agency specifically tasked with providing equipment to the security forces would also speak on the utilisation and non-utilisation of equipment acquired by the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP).
Economist Terry Crawford-Browne, a long-time opponent of the SDPP and the man responsible for the Commission’s establishment, told Cape Town daily Die Burger he had lost all hope that Judge Willie Seriti’s Commission would achieve positive results.
“The Commission should withdraw its request for more funding and an extension of its lifespan after November 30 because it will achieve nothing,” he told the paper.
Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe indicated in answer to a parliamentary question the Commission has spent more than R23 million of the R40 million allocated to it since its formation.
With no new revelations expected from the Commission, military analyst Helmoed Romer Heitman is of the opinion it is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“I strongly doubt there will be any new evidence to add to what has been revealed over the past 15 years. This, coupled, with the by-now usual opposition to it makes me think there will not be any new conclusions reached,” he told Afrikaans daily Beeld after the first day of public hearings.
He would rather see the commission’s funding moved to the SANDF budget.
“This will see at least some of the front-line equipment acquired in terms of the SDPP be kept operational.”
In her opening remarks Ramagaga indicated the initial cost of the SDPP was just on R30 billion. This was for the acquisition of four stealth corvettes (later re-classed as frigates), three diesel-electric Type 209 submarines, 30 A109 light utility helicopters, 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainers and 26 Gripen jet fighters. Four Super Lynx maritime helicopters were later added to the SDPP.
“By October 2010 the cost of the SDPP was indicated as being approximately R30 billion,” she said.
The first round of public hearings is set to finish on January 30, 2014, two months after the expiry of the Commission’s mandate. There has, as yet, been no indication from the Presidency whether its lifespan will be extended with spokesman Mac Maharaj saying “consideration” was being given to this.