dispute over arms deal goes before parliament

Anna Majavu and Joel Avni

Anna Majavu and Joel Avni

Parliament's select committee on public accounts is expected to get documents suggesting the Arms deal report was extensively modified.

The draft report was of the joint investigation by the Scorpions, public protector and former auditor-general Shauket Fakie.

The documents were forwarded to Scopa by electronics engineer Richard Young, whose bid to participate in the arms deal was thwarted and who won R15million in a claim against the government.

Scopa is reviewing evidence that has become available on the controversial strategic arms purchase.

Fakie's original conclusion that pointed to serious problems with the deal were removed from the report that was made public after it was reviewed by cabinet.

Though Fakie found that the arms deal was riddled with irregularities, the government's final report absolved cabinet ministers of any wrongdoing.

The government then claimed the report had been edited only to make it more user friendly. But the documents to be presented in Parliament will show that the sanitised report had deleted hundreds of pages of evidence and conclusions about wrongdoing in the deal.

The original report said about former defence minister Joe Modise: "The minister could have influenced decisions made by certain role players during the process to select BAe-Saab as the preferred bidder for the Gripen and Hawk Aircraft."

This sentence disappeared in the from the modified version, and replaced by: "The visionary approach suggested by the minister was accepted and implemented, causing the selection of BAe-Saab as a preferred bidder."

The auditor-general's original report to the president reads: "There were fundamental flaws in the selection of BAe-Saab as the preferred bidder for the [lead-in fighter trainer, the Hawk] and [the advanced light fighter aircraft, or Gripen] programme."