22 January 2013

South Africa: Judge Seriti Must Restore Integrity of the Arms Procurement Commission

press release

Judge Willie Seriti should make a comprehensive public statement to restore the integrity of the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of Fraud, Corruption, Impropriety or Irregularity in the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (Arms Procurement Commission).

The Arms Procurement Commission is clearly in deep trouble following the very serious allegations made by a former senior investigator, Norman Moabi, who alleges that the commission has a "second agenda" to cover up the truth about the arms deal.

Judge Seriti must surely appreciate the enormous public cynicism about the arms deal following what appears to be a decade-long cover-up of the biggest corruption scandal in the history of our country.

He must therefore act, not only to restore the credibility of the commission, but also to build public trust in it.

It is imperative, therefore, that Judge Seriti make a comprehensive public statement to address, not just the allegations made by Norman Moabi, but all the concerns which, taken together, have eroded the commission's credibility.

These include:

very long delays experienced in initially setting up the commission;

the departure of evidence leaders Advocate 'Vas' Soni and Advocate 'Sticks' Mdlala;

the appointment of Riena Charles, who was acquitted of fraud and corruption charges, as a legal investigator;

the secondment of staff from state departments, including the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, to the commission;

doubts as to how it would be possible for the Commission to complete its work and deliver a final report within its 24-month lifespan; andmost importantly, why, with only a few weeks until public hearings are set to commence, key witnesses have not yet received summons setting out the scope of evidence which they will be required to provide to the commission at the hearings.

Moreover, it would go some way to restore the integrity of the commission if Judge Seriti provided some insight into the scope of the work already completed by the commission, including:

whether the commission has provided any interim reports to President Jacob Zuma;

whether the commission has been in contact with foreign law enforcement agencies to assist the commission; and

which state departments the commission has been in contact with to provide documents that may assist the commission.

This may be the last best chance for Judge Seriti to restore credibility and build public trust in the Arms Procurement Commission.

David Maynier, Shadow Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

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