The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, needs to come clean about the seemingly bungled development of a Kondor-E radar imaging reconnaissance satellite, at the cost of more than R1 billion, by Defence Intelligence.
On 19 May 2006 a contract, with a value of R1.2 billion, was signed with a Russian company called NPO Mashinostroyenia, to develop a Kondor-E radar imaging reconnaissance satellite for Defence Intelligence.
The project was referred to as "Project Flute" and later as "Project Consolidated Flute".
We do not have all the facts about the development of the satellite by Defence Intelligence. However, following a four-year-long probe this is what we do know:
(Note: The project is also referred to as "Consolidated Project Flute".)
* Development of a Kondor-E radar imaging reconnaissance satellite for Defence Intelligence.
* A radar imaging reconnaissance satellite has the advantage of being able to produce images at night and through cloud.
* A radar imaging reconnaissance satellite could be used by Defence Intelligence for intelligence gathering and battlefield reconnaissance.
19 May 2006
The main driver behind the project to develop the satellite is believed to have been General "Mojo" Motau who, at the time, was the chief of Defence Intelligence.
The contract to develop the Kondor-E satellite was frozen for a period, sometime before 2008, by the Department of Defence, causing NPO Mashinostroyenia to threaten legal action, and apparently delaying the launch of the SumbandilaSat, produced by South Africa.
"Project Flute" is believed to have been frozen, in part, because a major flaw was discovered in the contract, something Defence Intelligence had failed to recognize.
Defence Intelligence would have no control over the satellite or be allowed to operate it from South Africa.
What this meant is that Defence Intelligence would be entirely dependent on NPO Mashinostroyenia.
Defence Intelligence would have to request images from NPO Mashinostroyenia, who would deliver them at additional cost and with a significant time delay.
The initial cost of "Project Flute" was R 1.2 billion, but the final cost of the project is unknown.
However, between 2006/07 and 2013/14, Defence Intelligence will have channelled R2.87 billion, through the secret Special Defence Account, some of which is being spent on the "development of a strategic information collection capability".
That something went horribly wrong with the project is evidenced by the fact that:
The Auditor-General conducted an investigation into the project, which was referred to as a "sensitive project in DI (Defence Intelligence) with potential serious financial implications for the Department of Defence"; and
A special report was produced on the project by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI).
The current status of the project is unknown. However, it appears to be on-going.
A Kondor radar imaging reconnaissance satellite, developed by NPO Mashinostroyenia, was reportedly first launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on 27 July 2013, probably for the Russian military.
A second launch of a Kondor radar imaging satellite, developed by NPO Mashinostroyenia, was reportedly being planned for an "undisclosed foreign customer" in 2013.
We cannot be sure, but it would seem on balance that, after eight years, and after spending more than R1 billion, the Kondor E satellite, developed by NPO Mashinostroyenia, has not yet been launched for Defence Intelligence.
It is time, after more than eight years and R 1 billion, for government to provide some straight answers about "Project Flute".
We need to know:
Whether there is an on-going Defence Intelligence project to develop a radar imaging reconnaissance satellite;
How the Defence Intelligence project to develop a radar imaging reconnaissance satellite was bungled; and
Who, following the investigation by the report by the Auditor-General, will be held accountable for the bungle.
In the end, we need to know how it is that Defence Intelligence entered into a contract, to finance a Russian company, to develop a radar imaging reconnaissance satellite, at the cost of more than R1 billion, over which they would have no control, and which has probably never been launched.
I will therefore:
Request Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to make a statement about the apparently bungled R1 billion development of a Kondor-E radar imaging reconnaissance satellite by the Defence Intelligence in Parliament;
Request the Inspector General for Intelligence, Advocate Faith Radebe, to investigate; and
Submit requests, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (No. 2 of 2000), for access to the report of the Auditor-General and the special report of the JSCI on "Project Flute".
David Maynier, Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans