The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) will on August 4 return to its probe of the still-controversial R47.401 billion Strategic Defence Package signed in 1999. The acquisition of 50 fighter aircraft, 30 helicopters, four frigates and three submarines in what is commonly called “the arms deal” has been dogged from inception by claims of corruption and cover-up.
SCOPA will consider the matter over four days in August. In addition to Wednesday week, SCOPA will discuss the acquisition and consider submissions from stakeholders on August 10, 11 and 13. Democratic Alliance SCOPA member David Maynier says the committee will “discuss the handover of cases relating to the arms deal from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to the Hawks.” The latter is the police’s Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation formed last year from the NPA’s Directorate of Special Operations, nicknamed the Scorpions and the police commercial crime unit.
“The meeting with the Hawks will give SCOPA the opportunity to probe the state of current investigations being conducted into the arms deal, Maynier and colleague Mark Steele said in a statement. They note the Hawks will have to demonstrate that they are serious about conducting a proper investigation into the arms deal by ensuring that there are is a sufficient number of properly qualified investigators, that investigators are properly resourced, and that investigators are cooperating with investigating authorities overseas.
National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Menzi Simelane in May told SCOPA the NPA is no longer investigating any cases of corruption related to the SDP and these were now in the hands of the Hawks. Godi said that he would call the police to question them about progress.
Maynier adds the upcoming meetings will give Scopa the opportunity to probe “the mysterious changes” made to the final report of the Joint Investigation Report (JIR) into the SDP. “There is quite unambiguous evidence available in the public domain that the draft version of the Joint Report was substantially altered, to radically change the nature of the report’s findings.”
The Afrikaans daily, Beeld, reported earlier this week the hearings may also see Congress of the People president Mosiuoa Lekota and former President Thabo Mbeki called to give evidence. Lekota was defence minister from 1999 to 2008 and often defended the SDP against allegations of impropriety. Mbeki, as deputy president in 1998, directed negotiations between SA and SDP bidders and drafted the list of “preferred bidders”. As president he stands accused of covering up alleged wrongdoing and editing the JIR to whitewash the deal.
SCOPA chairman Themba Godi told the Afrikaans daily the committee will be considering a bulky submission from arms deal gadfly Dr Richard Young, CE of electronics firm CCII. “What Young submitted to Parliament is new information. We will determine to what extent it takes the matter forward and we will let ourselves be led by the evidence put forward,” Godi said. The SCOPA last year June said the issue “was not finalised in the Third Parliament”. He added that a “decision had been taken [by the 2004-2009 Parliament] that anyone who had new information should present it to SCOPA”. Young did.