Seriti rules out use of AG report at arms deal inquiry

Seriti rules out use of AG report at arms deal inquiry

The authenticity of a draft Auditor-General report was questioned at the arms deal inquiry and use of the report blocked.

The draft report has previously been used by arms deal critics to point out how the then A-G’s report was apparently changed, allegedly to whitewash the A-G’s own investigation into the controversial 1999 arms deal.

The report didn’t get beyond a few minutes of dispute in yesterday’s public hearing of the commission.

It was raised by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), whose lawyers wanted to use it as a basis for some of their cross-examination of Armscor’s Johan Odendal.

Questions were raised about the value of using a report clearly labelled as a draft.

LHR’s Gina Snyman said their clients – arms deal critics Andrew Feinstein, a former ANC MP, and authors Paul Holden and Hennie van Vuuren – had already handed the report to the commission and would rely on it in their evidence next year.

But commission chairman Judge Willie Seriti ruled out its use in the cross-examination of Odendal.

“I am not seeing this document for the first time. We have seen it many times. But the fact that we have seen a document doesn’t mean that document is admissible,” said Judge Seriti, asking Snyman whether it was a final draft.
“Unless you are prepared to give evidence about the admissibility of this document, I’m not going to allow you to use it to cross-examine this witness.”

Snyman also asked Odendal how the number of helicopters bought had dropped from the 60 originally ordered to the 30 which were ultimately bought from Italian company Agusta, and why the tender was not reissued to take that change into account.

Armscor ran the arms deal procurement for the Department of Defence, and Odendal was the programme manager for the light utility helicopter programme.

Odendal said the tender documentation allowed the change and that reissuing the paperwork wasn’t necessary.

After Odendal finished yesterday, the commission was scheduled to hear from his colleague, Frits Nortje, but Armscor’s legal team said Nortje was still searching archives for extra documents following discussions with the commission’s evidence leaders.

Commission evidence leaders said they did not have another witness immediately available whose evidence could be completed before the end of the week, when the commission had planned to suspend hearings.

Judge Seriti said a new witness schedule would be released soon.

The hearings are expected to resume in mid-January.