The Seriti Commission, currently preparing its report for President Jacob Zuma, cost the South African taxpayer more than R113 million.
This was revealed by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Mike Masutha when he responded to a parliamentary question posed by the DA.
Gauteng Afrikaans daily Beeld reports the major part of the Commission’s costs was it evidence leaders. One of them, Simon Lebala reportedly earned R12,3 million while he was part of the commission established by Zuma to investigate allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity in the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP).
The acquisition of new front line equipment for the SA Air Force and SA Navy started in 1998 and Armscor, in its 2014/15 annual report said certain aspects of the multi-billion Rand acquisition are still being dealt with.
The Commission’s establishment was announced by Zuma in September 2011 and, according to its chairman Judge Willie Seriti, work began in earnest the following April.
The SDPP saw the air force obtain 26 Gripen fighters, 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainers, 30 Agusta light utility helicopters and four Super Lynx maritime helicopters with the Navy getting back its blue water capability with four Valour Class frigates and three Type 209 Heroine Class submarines.
Hennie van Vuuren, a co-author of “Devil in the Detail: How the arms deal changed everything” told the paper the Commission was nothing but a scandalous waste of money.
“I find it shocking that a handful of people became rich as a result of the Commission but that it achieved nothing in terms of establishing the amount of corruption that went on during the arms acquisition.
“The way the Commission went about its business has, to my mind, ensured South Africans now know even less about corruption in the arms deal because much of the evidence to be provided by key witnesses was simply blocked,” the paper reports him as saying.
Evidence was led and given by about 56 witnesses during a series of public hearings. Included were former and serving Cabinet Ministers; former and serving Chiefs of SANDF arms of service as well as SANDF Chief, General Solly Shoke; senior military officers, Armscor officials and officials from other government departments involved in the procurement process.
Resignations by senior Commission personnel and allegations of a hidden agenda damaged the trustworthiness of the Commission. Responding in June this year Judge Willie Seriti said: “When we thought we had weathered the storm a senior evidence leader resigned to by followed shortly by two other evidence leaders right in the middle of public hearings. This only served to strengthen the resolve of the remaining teams of evidence leaders, our support staff and the commissioners to soldier on and execute our mandate”.
The Seriti Commission was initially given two years and a R40 million budget to do its work but this was extended and additional funding also requested.