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STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS (SCOPA)
16 October 2001
PUBLIC PROTECTOR/AUDITOR GENERAL REPORT ON ARMS DEAL INVESTIGATION
Chairperson: Mr G Woods (IFP)
Mr Woods noted that they were still not 100% sure that the investigation report would come to SCOPA. The Auditor General intended to table it on October 29. Rather than have it sit over the Christmas recess, it should be discussed before the break. He understood the report would be about 260 pages. He said that they would like to engage the authors of the report.
The Auditor General replied that he had previously indicated an interim report would be issued by the end of September. They were now trying to make their report a final rather than interim report. They were at the closing stages, but their staff were working 15 to 16 hours per day and on weekends, and were close to collapse. The report from the Auditor General and Public Protector would be a final report, and they plan to complete it before the recess and hand it to the Speaker. Her response is out of their hands. It is a tight deadline, but they were concerned that they should not be rushed and thus jeopardise quality. He suggested that the Committee plan on November 14, and they would make ourselves available to answer questions. They were planning a report of 250/260 pages, but it could go to 400/500 pages. He thought that they would need at least two weeks to digest it.
Mr Kannemeyer (ANC) suggested that if they get the report by the end of October, that they should lay everything else aside and consider the report and then present a committee report to Parliament before the recess - rather than go overseas, have Christmas and carry this over until January. If they could not complete this work before the recess, they should not start it before the recess.
Ms Taljaard (DP) agreed that they could not have time delays. They must clarify where the report is going from the Speaker's Office. She wanted to know what the role of the National Directorate of Serious Economic Offences was.
Mr Woods questioned whether SCOPA could ask the Speaker what her intentions might be.
An ANC committee member said that it was impossible for the Committee to complete the task since they do not know what the Speaker would do, and they cannot start something they cannot finish. She concluded that they cannot deal with this report this year.
Mr Koornhof (UDM) said that they need to be pro-active. That meant not only a letter to the Speaker, but SCOPA should rather engage with her. If the report comes to SCOPA, they must plan how to deal with it. It would be hilarious to have the media playing with the report over the Christmas recess.
Mr Nair (ANC) said that it was quite clear that they would not get the report in time to deal with it before the recess. He proposed that they should deal with it in the New Year.
The Auditor General said that the Committee would need far longer than two weeks to deal with the report. He did not think it was possible to conclude the matter this year. If the Committee could not deal with the report this year, he asked if they might have a little more leeway.
An ANC committee member said that it was not correct to write to the Speaker about theissue. If she chooses to send the report to another committee, they could make input as Members of Parliament. It is the Speaker's prerogative to decide to which committee she will refer it. What is now so urgent? If the Speaker were to give them the report, they could deal with it next year.
Mr Bruce (DP) said that Official Opposition regarded the report as extremely important. They would be in Cape Town to deal with it during the recess if necessary.
Mr Smith (ANC) said that they should get on with other business, and deal with the report the following year.
Mr Woods commented that there was strong public feeling about wanting to get this issue done with, but it was apparent that they could not handle this until the following year.
Mr Taljaard commented that they have reservations about this decision.
Mr Woods concluded that if and when the report came to them, they would plan accordingly.
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