Arms Deal: Discussion on Reopening the Investigation

Public Accounts (SCOPA)

13 February 2008
Chairperson: Mr T N Godi (African People's Convention)
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Meeting Summary

Mr E Trent (DA) had requested on 29 January 2008 that a discussion be held on the reopening of the Arms Deal Investigation. He had offered to supply Members with a document outlining the issues for discussion. The Chairperson had responded by saying that there must be sufficient reason to reopen the investigation and that other broader matters affecting South Africa must also be taken into account before the Arms Deal Investigation be reopened.

At the Committee’s 06 February 2008 meeting, discussion was postponed to 13 February 2008, because Members had received Mr Trent’s document too late to have had sufficient opportunity to read it.

Mr Trent reviewed the background to his proposed resolution. The new ANC National Executive Committee had taken a resolution to establish an ad hoc committee to probe the Arms Deal and prepare a detailed factual report. It was significant that the governing party had reached such a decision at this time. On the other hand, if the governing party felt that all the facts pertaining to the Arms Deal had been presented, then one was obliged to question their decision to appoint such an ad hoc committee.

Mr Trent said that he was not saying that anyone was guilty of anything, but SCOPA as a committee needed to set aside some time, hopefully in the near future, if his resolution was adopted, to discuss these matters in the spirit of collegiality and independence in order to decide what it should recommend to Parliament.

The matter should be concluded as soon as possible, since it was bad for South Africa’s reputation. There were four foreign countries investigating the payment of bribes; even Switzerland, very sensitive to such matters, was investigating the payment of monies to individuals in South Africa through Swiss banks. Mr Trent believed that all Members of SCOPA were committed to the noble objective of eradicating corruption in South Africa.

ANC Members called for the resolution to be withdrawn. An IFP Member supported the resolution conditionally, calling for evidence in the form of sworn affidavits, not in the form of literary evidence from Mr Andrew Feinstein’s book After the Party.

The Chairperson, with particular reference to the IFP Member’s statement, emphasised that Members discuss the matter from the viewpoint of membership of SCOPA rather than from the viewpoint of party membership.

There was indeed considerable discussion in the meeting on Members’ roles as Committee Members vis-à-vis their roles as members of their respective parties. The balance of opinion appeared to be that their roles as Members of the Committee prevailed.

A degree of compromise was achieved, there being some points of agreement between Mr Trent and Mr Vincent Smith, notwithstanding that the latter had given a lengthy critique of the resolution. It was resolved that the resolution as worded should be withdrawn, but that the Committee should examine the recommendations that it had made previously and check what progress had been achieved towards their implementation. The Research Section of the Committee would assist. Then the Committee would be in a position to decide how to proceed.

Meeting report

Discussion on reopening the Arms Deal Investigation
Events leading up to the discussion
Mr E Trent (DA) had requested on 29 January 2008 that a discussion be held on the reopening of the Arms Deal Investigation. He had offered to supply Members with a document outlining the issues for discussion. The Chairperson had responded that there must be sufficient reason to reopen the investigation and that other broader matters affecting South Africa must also be taken into account before the Arms Deal Investigation be reopened.

At the Committee’s 06 February 2008 meeting, Members had reported that they had received Mr Trent’s document only on the day of the meeting and had not sufficient opportunity to read it. Mr G Madikiza (UDM) had felt inconvenienced because he had not had time to discuss the matter with his party. Mr V Smith (ANC) had said that if the document came back to the Committee after discussions with the relevant political parties, it would then be a party political position and not the apolitical view of the Committee. He had further cautioned that Mr Trent’s proposal had the potential to take the Committee back to working on political premises. The Chairperson had noted that it was preferable that Members had sufficient opportunity to read Mr Trent’s document in order to participate in the discussion, and that he would not want the matter to take the Committee backwards in its working procedure. ANC Members had complained that Mr Trent’s document unacceptably commented on ANC decisions with which the DA had not been involved: Mr D Gumede (ANC) had not received the document at all. Mr Trent had noted that he had not lobbied any Member of the Committee for support and that he was tabling the matter only as a concerned citizen. The Committee had agreed with a proposal by Ms N Hlangwana (ANC), who had not seen the document prior to the meeting, to postpone the matter to the next meeting.

Mr E Trent’s oral presentation on his motivation
The Chairperson  said that Members, having had the opportunity, afforded by 06 February 2008’s postponement, to study Mr Trent’s motivation, were now expected to be in a position to decide on an appropriate way forward. He invited Mr Trent to give a brief presentation on the matter and indicate what he wanted the Committee to do. Thereafter, the Chairperson hoped that the Committee could conclude the matter. The Chairperson requested Mr Trent to switch on his microphone.

Mr Trent said the purpose of his letter of motivation, dated 05 February 2008 and attached to the Committee Papers of 13 February 2008, was not to produce conclusive proof or new evidence but rather to explain the Democratic Alliance’s belief that SCOPA had not yet fulfilled its complete responsibility for investigating the Arms Deal.

In his letter of motivation, Mr Trent had reviewed the background to the matter, beginning with the Auditor-General’s special review of the Arms Deal selection process (RP161/2000) as well as certain papers that had been referred to SCOPA, for the benefit of Members who might not have been fully acquainted with it, since he did not want there to be any misunderstandings.

It was important to note that SCOPA, in its report (14th report, dated 30 October 2000 and tabled 02 November 2000 that had been adopted by the National Assembly), on its consideration of the special review, had stated that SCOPA would issue a second and final report on the Arms Deal, as well as complete a few areas of its own investigation. This had not happened.

SCOPA had tabled a further report (15th report, 2001, tabled on 12 December 2001) with various findings and recommendations. Mr Trent asked whether SCOPA had followed up on those reports and if not, why not? Mr Trent said that it remained SCOPA’s responsibility to monitor all aspects of its recommendations regarding the Arms Deal, recommendations of the Joint Investigating Team (JIT)’s report, as well as any developments or new information that had become available. He noted that SCOPA had dealt with neither the recommendations nor any of the new developments, which, if pursued, would surely provide new information.

Mr Trent had argued in his letter that if one were serious about SCOPA’s oversight role, then it was imperative to engage with some twelve issues:

1          The newly elected ANC National Executive Council had decided to appoint an ad hoc committee to probe the Arms Deal and prepare a detailed factual report, ensuring admission that there were now compelling reasons to re-examine the Arms Deal. Mr Trent said that it was unthinkable that Parliament, and therefore SCOPA, should abdicate its responsibility by doing nothing whilst the governing party gathered information about itself and its officials that would not be subjected to public scrutiny.

2          Former ANC and SCOPA member, Andrew Feinstein had made serious allegations of covering-up and corruption related to the Arms Deal in his recent book After the Party (Jonathan Ball, 2007). To Mr Trent’s knowledge, none of the allegations, which Mr Trent quoted in his letter, had been denied or refuted.  Mr Trent had said in his letter that the DA believed that SCOPA should investigate those matters by calling witnesses.

3          A comparison of the final version of the JIT report with the version given to the Cabinet committee for review showed very substantial changes. That these were only changes of format, as testified to SCOPA by Auditor-General Shauket Fakie and Public Protector Selby Bawqa, was allegedly untrue and the extent of those allegations and the truth thereof had never been properly investigated.

4          SCOPA’s 15th report stated that the Committee further noted the ongoing criminal investigations that were being conducted and committed itself to monitor the investigations through its ongoing oversight role.

5          Paragraph 14.1.1 of the JIT report noted that there were irregularities and improprieties.

6          Paragraph 14.1.17 of the JIT report stated clearly that there was a conflict of interest with regard to the position held and the role played by the chief accusations officer of the Department of Defence (DOD), Mr S Shaik, by virtue of his brother’s interests in the Thompson Group and ADS.

7          Paragraph 14.1.18 of the JIT Report stated that during the course of the investigation it had been established that the chief of acquisitions, Mr Shaik, had not applied for and had not received the military security clearances required by law.

8          Mr Andrew Feinstein had said in his book that sub-contracts were not properly investigated in the JIG report and that Armscor had instructed prime contractors which contractors they should use and that ‘Chippy Shaik’ was apparently heavily involved in those subcontracts. Thus it was important that SCOPA found out why no-one other than Mr Tony Yengeni and Mr S Shaik had so far been successfully prosecuted, and why Parliament had not been kept informed.

9          In certain cases the JIT report contained no recommendations, despite findings of wrongdoing. Such findings without recommendations were worthless. SCOPA needed to address the matter.

10         In respect of paragraph 4, it was unbelievable that Parliament and therefore SCOPA was not kept informed as to South Africa’s response to requests for assistance from the international community in respect of allegations of corruption in the UK, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland, relating to South Africa’s Arms Deal. Despite SCOPA’s resolutions the Committee remained uninformed and it was time that SCOPA began actively to seek answers to these questions.

11         The public would never accept the Arms Deal until, on a balance of probability, it could be clearly shown that the acquisition process was free from fraud, corruption and manipulation. It was therefore important to restore the public’s confidence in the state.

12         The DA also wished SCOPA to investigate the costs of the Arms Deal, which had exceeded the official budget. The original costs had also failed to take into account the costs of ammunition, training of personnel and repairs and operational maintenance. The package had cost the taxpayer far more than had originally been planned.  SCOPA also needed to investigate the claims that some of the items purchased as part of the package were lying idle and unused.

Mr Trent said that all these issues, he believed, remained SCOPA’s mandate and responsibility. If the Committee failed to meet this challenge, it would fail South Africa. It was incumbent upon SCOPA to set aside time during the required period before the 2008 annual reports were tabled to call witnesses and gather evidence with a view to tabling a report and recommendations setting out the way forward.

There were now compelling reasons for SCOPA to exercise its responsibilities in the matter. Indeed, in the light of recent developments, SCOPA had an obligation to take up the matter.

Mr Trent then read his proposed SCOPA resolution which had been distributed at the meeting:

‘With reference to the Arms Deal, and with the object of advising and making recommendations to Parliament, I propose that SCOPA discusses and evaluates:

Generally, the progress made by the various role players in respect of the recommendations contained in SCOPA’s 14th, 15th and 16th reports of October, November and December 2001 respectively; and
Specifically, the possible cases of corruption mentioned in paragraphs C3 (Findings and Recommendations) and D3 (Concluding Remarks) contained in the 15th Report, dated 11 December 2001.
Any other relevant matters.

And that documents be called for and witnesses invited to appear to facilitate these discussions.’

Paragraph 2, Mr Trent said, was of special importance. (Sound recording 24m 19s). He said that it was important that SCOPA invite people to give evidence, and, if necessary, produce documents.

Mr Trent wished to emphasise that his resolution did not seek to find anyone guilty of any thing. It was simply that Mr Feinstein’s in his book, After the Party, made some very serious allegations about people who had interfered, or were alleged to have interfered, with the workings of SCOPA on the basis that he was intimidated into, eventually, resigning. Mr Trent did not claim that what Mr Feinstein wrote was necessarily true. However, they were serious allegations.

One of Mr Feinstein’s allegations was that the ANC’s 1999 election was funded from money from companies that had received contracts. That might not in itself be a crime, but Mr Trent thought that it raised questions.

There were also serious allegations that the JIT’s final report was changed considerably at the insistence of the executive committee.

Mr Trent believed that it was necessary to discuss these matters and ascertain if there was substance in these allegations.

SCOPA’s second priority was to re-examine the matters that it was supposed to follow up. Specifically, for example, SCOPA should re-examine the 15th report of SCOPA, tabled on 11 December 2001.

Mr George Madikiza (UDM) asked if there was a page number.

Mr Trent referred Mr Madikiza to Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports, Wednesday, 12 December 2001, No. 163-2001, pages 1550-1553.

In this report (paragraph A.2) SCOPA had recommended an independent and expert forensic investigation to ‘prove or disprove once and for all’ the allegations of corruption relating to the procurement process.

The Scorpions had investigated, and Mr Shaik had been found guilty. There were, however, other people who had clearly been involved but had not been investigated.

The Joint Investigation Report had been tabled in Parliament on 14 November 2001 and referred to eight committees – Defence, Ethics, Finance, Justice, Public Service and Administration, and Trade and Industry.

Mr Trent then referred to paragraph C.3, in which the Committee further noted and supported the ongoing criminal investigations that were being conducted and urged that they be concluded speedily.

That was in 2001. The year was now 2008. Mr Trent noted that the Committee had committed itself to monitor, through its ongoing oversight role, the implementation of recommendations falling within its area of competence. It was important, in order to conclude the matter, to establish whether or not the Committee had fulfilled its commitments.

Finally, Mr Trent mentioned a very compelling reason, as detailed in his 05 February 2008 letter of motivation for SCOPA to place the Strategic Defence Package on the Agenda for Further Discussion.

At the recent conference, the new ANC National Executive Committee had taken a resolution to establish an ad hoc committee to probe the Arms Deal and prepare a detailed factual report. Mr Trent said that he believed that the ad hoc committee had now been appointed under the Chairperson ship of Mr Jeremy Cronin. It would be receiving its terms of reference fairly soon. There was nothing wrong with anyone investigating anything that they wanted to investigate. But it was significant that the governing party had reached the decision at this time that the matter was important enough to receive attention from the governing party itself. If the governing party felt that all the facts had been presented, then one was obliged to question their decision to appoint the ad hoc committee.

Mr Trent said that he was not saying that anyone was guilty of anything, but SCOPA as a committee needed to set aside some time, hopefully in the near future, if his resolution was adopted, to discuss these matters in the spirit of collegiality and independence in order to decide what SCOPA should recommend to Parliament. Mr Trent stressed the word ‘Parliament’. The question needed to be asked what Parliament should be doing. It was not possible for SCOPA just to institute an investigation by itself. Rather, SCOPA should recommend, if necessary, that Parliament should refer the matter to another body to investigate, Alternatively, SCOPA, after due consideration, might recommend to Parliament that no more need be done. There was no conclusive evidence that anything untoward had happened.

The matter should be concluded as soon as possible, since it was bad for South Africa’s reputation for the matter not to be concluded. There were four foreign countries investigating the payment of bribes; even Switzerland was investigating the payment of monies to individuals in South Africa through Swiss banks. The Swiss were very sensitive to such matters. Mr Trent believed that all Members of SCOPA were committed to eradicating corruption in South Africa.

At this point the Chairperson intervened, indicating to Mr Trent that he should, on account of time constraints, conclude his presentation.

Mr Trent said that he believed that it was necessary to do something and be seen to be doing something in pursuit of that very noble objective of eradicating corruption.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Trent.

Mr H J Bekker (IFP) read a statement from the IFP. The IFP would, on principle, not stand in the way of any investigation that would promote accountability and prosecution of corrupt civil servants or any person from the private sector involved in bribery and corruption. The chairperson of SCOPA at the time of the investigation into the Arms Deal, and who was a member of the IFP, had clearly indicated that he wished that the matter be pursued further. However, the IFP as an independent body did not necessarily agree with the wording of the DA resolution. However, in the interest of good governance, the IFP would support the resolution.

However, Mr Bekker felt constrained to point out that the IFP would not accept merely the evidence that was contained in Mr Feinstein’s book that would, in the minds of the IFP members, not sustain the test of judgement. The IFP would call on evidence that was more substantial and in the form of prescribed affidavits.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was discussing the subject as Members of the Committee, without party affiliations.

Mr Bekker asked if he could table the statement under his own name.

The Chairperson agreed, and said that he hoped that the journalists present would delete the word IFP. He stressed that Members were working together as Members of the Committee, not as party members. 

Ms N Hlangwana (ANC) said, as a new Member of SCOPA, that she thought that Mr Trent had not given enough details.  As a point of procedure, there was nothing wrong with discussing this matter in this Committee. However, she thought that Mr Trent, as a Member with long experience, would have noted that Parliament had already taken a resolution on the matter. She did not want to speak at greater length, since she wanted to allow enough time for other Members to contribute to discussion, but she wished to emphasise the matter of correct procedure.

Mr G Madikiza (UDM) objected to summoning Members for interrogation by SCOPA, as if there had been new evidence.  Mr Trent had not taken Members of the Committee into his confidence with regard to the production of new evidence. He did not have any objection to recommendations to follow up and monitor.

Mr B Pule (UCDP) said that he was not present in the previous meeting and wanted to be clear as to how far the Committee had progressed in the matter of Mr Trent’s proposal.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had asked Mr Trent to give a motivation as to why the Committee should act on his suggestion. He saw no contradiction at a procedural level. If there were a contradiction, it would be at a substantive level. 

Mr Pule confirmed that he was talking from his personal perspective, not as a member of the United Christian Democratic Party. However, he was not very sure whether Members were acting as Members of the Committee or party members. He, nevertheless, was talking as a Member of the Committee. 

The Chairperson said that, in the previous meeting from which Mr Pule had been absent, Members had, by the end of their discussion, ‘found each other again’, and had left that meeting as firmly in their role as Members of the Committee. He suggested that the Committee try to ascertain if there was anything of substance in the allegations mentioned by Mr Trent. If there were anything of substance, then he suggested that the Committee pursue the matter in the same way that it had pursued other matters that were not related to the Arms Deal.

Ms Hlangwana (ANC) asked from where Mr Trent had obtained his information about the ANC’s decisions. She asked if he were a member of the ANC, or if he had obtained it from the media. She asked whether the Members, as a Portfolio Committee, were supposed to deal with information from the media, or ‘from the street’, rather than with facts.

Mr D Gumede (ANC) thanked Mr Trent for his concern on the issue. He wanted to assure him that ANC members would continue to de-emphasise their political affiliation in their role as Committee Members of SCOPA, in which Members discussed issues in the national interest. South Africa, he said, was their only home. So he suggested that before making allegations, it was essential to evaluate the damage that such allegations could cause to ‘our beautiful country’.

Secondly, Mr Gumede said that Parliament had adopted the resolution and owned it. Therefore anything that arose from that resolution should be raised in Parliament, not in SCOPA, since the document had been adopted by the full Assembly.

Thirdly, Mr Gumede said that SCOPA did not have the resources or capacity to pursue the matter, nor the mandate to investigate crime. That mandate belonged to the commercial unit, or the Scorpions. He said to Mr Trent that if he had evidence of criminal acts, it would have been of service to the country to bring them to the attention of the country’s investigative organs, which would then take the issue to the courts, which would decide in the matter. 

Mr Trent was, Mr Gumede said, ‘an honest South African’. However, Mr Gumede did not find himself in a position to support Mr Trent’s resolution.  Mr Gumede said that the correct route to follow was to report the matter to Parliament and to the relevant organs. He moved that Mr Trent’s resolution be rejected. 

Dr G Koornhof (ANC) said that according to the 29 January 2008 minutes approved earlier in the meeting, paragraph 6, that the reopening of the Arms Deal would be considered only if new evidence was brought to light. In the opening paragraph of Mr Trent’s letter, he stated that his purpose was not to prove any new evidence. This did not make sense. In its previous investigation, SCOPA had studied all the documents provided exhaustively, but had decided that there was no new evidence to be found. Dr Koornhof asked Mr Trent why he was calling for the resolution, if there was no new evidence. Mr Trent himself acknowledged that there was no new evidence.

 The Chairperson said that the matter was on the table and belonged to all Members of the Committee. He would not ‘put Mr Trent on the spot’ and say that he had to respond.

Mr P Gerber (ANC) said that it was not the practice in SCOPA that a resolution was necessary to discuss a matter. In view of the Committee’s volume of work, he did not think that it was appropriate to involve the Committee with the matter at this time. The Arms Deal had been ‘the most transparent arms deal in the history of South Africa’. There was nothing to stop Mr Feinstein, who had apologised for making certain allegations, taking any new evidence, if he had any, to overseas investigators. However, SCOPA could not instigate an investigation simply because someone had written a book. The previous auditor-general had dealt with the matter sufficiently, unless the Committee was questioning Mr Fakie’s bona fides. This report that had been adopted was no longer SCOPA’s report; it belonged to the House. If there was any unfinished business in the report then it was the Speaker who should follow up.

Mr T Mofokeng (ANC) said that he concurred with Dr Koornhof and gave a lengthy critique of Mr Trent’s letter of motivation. It should be clear that it was not the Arms Deal that was being discussed at the present time. The Joint Investigating Team had reported not to SCOPA but to the National Assembly. SCOPA was only one of the several committees that the National Assembly asked to engage with the report. Any further action on the report should be at the request of the House. Any evidence that Mr Feinstein had possessed at the time of his membership of the ANC and of SCOPA should have been released to SCOPA. With reference to paragraph 11 on page 5 of Mr Trent’s 05 February 2008 letter of motivation, Mr Trent implied that a person was guilty until proved innocent, but, under South African law, a person was innocent until proved guilty. The DA’s ‘wishes’, expressed in paragraph 12 of the letter, should rather be addressed to the appropriate committees, such as Defence, or to the Auditor-General. Only when they had been referred and addressed through the proper channels, should SCOPA entertain them.

The Chairperson repeated that Mr Trent had tabled his proposal, and it was now for the Committee, rather than Mr Trent, to respond.

Mr Vincent Smith (ANC) referred to the background of Trent’s proposed resolution. It was wrong of Mr Trent to say that nothing had happened (page 1 of his letter).  Perhaps Mr Trent had been absent at the time; Mr Smith absolved him from some mistakes. He agreed with Mr Trent where he maintained that it remained SCOPA’s responsibility to monitor all aspects of its recommendations regarding the Arms Deal (page 2 of the letter). No Member had a problem with that, which was what the Committee did as a matter of course.

However, Mr Smith objected Mr Trent’s reference to the new ANC NEC and his politicising SCOPA. The Committee had never discussed initiatives of political parties. One could not come to SCOPA and say that SCOPA was apolitical, and then bring a direct quotation about the ANC and then say that because members were members of the ANC they must therefore not respond but remain silent. This kind of behaviour would ‘poison this Committee’.  If the IFP or the DA decided to take an initiative, it had nothing to do with SCOPA. Just because the ANC, or the DA, had established a committee for a particular purpose, it did not mean that SCOPA should follow suit. Sometimes one had to be brutally frank: in this case, he was not attacking Mr Trent but the content of his document. It was not a personal matter, but he felt obliged to say that the document’s contents ‘were rubbish’. One could not attend SCOPA and discuss ANC NEC decisions and expect ANC Members not to retaliate. 

Mr Smith concurred with Mr Bekker, when he had said that SCOPA was not the shop steward of Mr Andrew Feinstein. On the contrary, SCOPA dealt with matters arising from the Auditor-General’s reports or documents of similar authority.  Perhaps if Mr Feinstein had relevant evidence, he should be invited to appear before the Committee.

Mr Smith said SCOPA was aware of some changes in the final version of the JIT report, but those who highlighted such matters ‘walked a thin line’ of attacking the integrity of a Chapter Nine Institution, and certainly SCOPA could not be party to that. 

Mr Smith said that SCOPA had no authority to accept or reject anything that had been adopted by Parliament. That was illegal.

Mr Smith said that one should be cautious of the thin line between rumour mongering and whistle blowing. SCOPA must not be used as an instrument of rumour mongering. It was essential to come with facts, not with something that he had read in the newspaper or heard over a braai table. 

Mr Smith said that the resolution as proposed by Mr Trent not be adopted. Mr Smith wanted to propose that if a resolution were to be adopted it should be crafted to read, with reference to the Arms Procurement matter, that matters specific to SCOPA, and only matters specific to SCOPA, should be overseen regularly. 

If the Committee were to adopt the resolution it should be with specific reference to the Arms Deal matters that were specific to SCOPA – those, and only those, should be monitored by SCOPA. Those concerning, for example, the Department of Trade and Industry or the Department of Defence were not the concern of SCOPA. The resolution in its present form was unacceptable.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Smith.
The Chairperson observed almost everyone had spoken, except Mr T J Bonhomme (ANC) and Mr M Stephens (DA). The Chairperson wanted to bring the discussion to a close.

Mr M Stephens (DA) said that he was implicated in so far as there had been criticism of the motion that it had referred to ‘the DA wishes’.  He wished to state categorically that Mr Trent had never raised the matter in any DA structure in which he, Mr Stephens, had been present. Mr Trent and he had discussed the matter for the first time the previous afternoon. The wording must have been a common mistake, of substituting ‘DA’ for ‘we’. Many of the points that had been raised by Members in this discussion were valid criticisms.  SCOPA’s recommendations were not always adequately followed up. This was not a formal investigation but a request to assess how far various role players had progressed in following recommendations. It had more to do with the future than with the past. It was a discussion not an official investigation. SCOPA had the right to make Parliament aware of shortcomings. It was not as sinister as some Members thought.

Mr B Edmund Pule (UCDP) said that he had listened with ‘the greatest ecstasy’ to what Members had said. However, he thought that the discussion’s aim was to assess whether recommendations had been followed through. The report had been accepted by Parliament. Like all reports accepted by Parliament, at some stage it had not been implemented. He asked if any point in the report had not been implemented. If everything had been implemented, then the Committee ‘had nothing to lean on’. He said that he did not accept that adoption by Parliament absolved SCOPA of reviewing any issue that SCOPA thought that it should review.

The Chairperson said that he wanted to bring the discussion to a close.

Mr George T Madikiza (UDM) said that the Committee was bound by its recorded proceedings past meetings, notwithstanding changes of membership. He referred to page 1551 of the report, in particular paragraph 4. There was no need for an extraordinary resolution to be adopted by SCOPA in order to follow up previous recommendations.
The Chairperson said that he did not want the discussion to become a personal matter between Mr Trent versus the rest of the Committee.

Mr Trent raised a point of order and said that it was very unfair that he was not allowed to respond, and wanted his complaint put on record.

The Chairperson said that Mr Trent could respond to one or two issues.

Ms Mashiane said that reading paragraphs in isolation clouded issues. She asked the Chairperson please to summarise the meeting’s conclusions.

Ms Hlangwana said that it was normal for the Chairperson to summarise the Committee’s deliberations.

The Chairperson said that he wanted to avoid a prolonged discussion, but he wanted to give Mr Trent the chance to respond to one or two issues.

Mr Trent said that he had no intention of responding to every speaker because many of the issues were cross-cutting, but he wanted to assert his right to respond.  According to his proposed resolution, nobody was presumed guilty. He suggested that the Committee look at the issues and then make a recommendation to Parliament, so that the matter could ‘finally be put to bed’, otherwise, contrary to what others might say, the matter would not be forgotten. The ANC NEC decision was common knowledge. If it was untrue, then he asked to be informed so that he could correct himself. He did not understand why it had to be made a big issue.

Ms Hlangwana objected, repeating that the Committee could not discuss allegations arising from the media.

Mr Trent said that he and Mr Smith had some common ground in that they both agreed that SCOPA should examine matters that were related to SCOPA. If the Committee wanted him to change the resolution to make that quite clear, he would agree. He was not asking SCOPA to overstep its mandate. He said that it was his intention to invite, not sub poena individuals to give evidence. He thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to respond, saying that he would be quite happy to reword the resolution to make it more specific. 

The Chairperson said that the Committee had taken a very long route to reach the current degree of understanding. He was happy that all Members were still as intact as they had been at 10h00 that same morning when the meeting had begun. Members were pleasantly and amicably amused. When the Committee had included Mr Trent’s resolution in the agenda, his impression as Chairperson was that Mr Trent was to produce new evidence that would cause the Committee to reopen the entire Strategic Defence Package. He remembered that Dr Koornhof had reminded him of a previous decision of a SCOPA plenary session that new evidence had to be produced in order for the Arms Deal to be reopened. However, Mr Trent’s resolution together with its motivation had almost taken the Committee back to where it was then. Any Member of the Committee had the right to raise issues and all Members had a responsibility to correct and assist that Member in his understanding of the issue. It must not be imagined that if any Member, like Mr Trent, raised an issue that the Member had committed a crime. It was important to take such issues in good faith. He was happy that the Committee had been able to discuss the issue without any undue acrimony. He was happy that this morning’s discussion had been ‘a good test’. ‘So far so good’, he said. 
The Chairperson suggested that the Committee move on with its business. He inferred that all Members agreed that SCOPA review previous recommendations and assess what progress had been made on implementing them.

Mr Gerber objected to the method by which Mr Trent had raised his matter. He wanted him to withdraw his resolution. If he wanted to discuss a subject, he was welcome to put it on the agenda, but not presume to present it as a resolution.

The Chairperson said that as far as he was concerned, the resolution had been withdrawn, but that it was important to move on with the discussion.

Mr Gerber stated that it was the principle of the thing that was wrong.

The Chairperson moved that the Committee would examine the recommendations that had been made previously and check what progress had been made in implementing them. The Committee would ask its Research Section to assist. Then the Committee would be in a position to decide how to respond.

Mr Trent said that he himself was ‘a reasonable man’.

The Chairperson indicated agreement.

Mr Trent said that, on the basis of what the Chairperson’s remarks, he was going to withdraw his resolution. What the Chairperson had suggested was reasonable.

Mr Trent wanted to continue by expressing his disagreement with Mr Gerber, but the Chairperson was firm in asking for the discussion to be brought to a close, since he wanted to conclude on a note of compromise and not allow the discussion to be prolonged in a ‘see-saw’ manner. He begged for Mr Trent’s indulgence. After the discussion it had appeared that it had been a ‘hoo-ha’ about nothing.  

Committee business
The Chairperson said that the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts was supposed to host the 2009 Conference of the Association of Public Accounts Committees (APAC). However, 2009 was the year of South Africa’s fourth democratic general election. A decision needed to be taken on whether the Conference should be held in 2009 or whether it should be postponed to the following year, since it might happen that after the general election the Committee would be composed entirely of new members who might have no perspective on what had happened in the Committee previously.

Mr Vincent Smith (ANC) said that from a practical point of view it was impossible to handle the APAC issue within the existing time frame, regardless of whether or not the existing Members would be returning after the general election or not. He said that most Members would be going away from Parliament from October 2008 in order to prepare for the general election campaigns, and would remain away through the first quarter of 2009 until after the general election had taken place. He proposed that the Committee should not host the Conference in 2009, although 2009 was the scheduled date in terms of the APAC constitution.

The Chairperson ruled that Members have time to consider the matter, and that it would be discussed in the next meeting when a final decision would be taken and forwarded to the APAC executive.

In reply to Mr Trent asking for feedback on the Committee’s study tour, the Chairperson said that the Committee Co-ordinator was following up the matter, and further information was expected to be forthcoming by the end of 13 February 2008.

Ms Mashiane asked that those responsible for travel arrangement would expedite matters and not announce approval only on the day on which participants were due to travel. The Chairperson said that the matter would certainly be followed up.

The Committee adopted minutes 29 January 2008 and 06 February 2008.

The Chairperson asked the Members to read the documents under Tablings after the meeting. Mr P Gerber (ANC) had been assigned to follow up on matters previously discussed concerning the Land Bank.

Meeting adjourned.

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