No evidence to support claims of wrongdoing in #ArmsDeal — Zuma

The evidence presented before the commission does not suggest that undue or improper influence played any role in the selection of the preferred bidders'

Evidence placed before the Arms Procurement Commission did not provide proof of any undue or improper influence in the selection of the preferred bidders‚ which ultimately entered into contracts with the government in 1999‚ President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

Releasing the 737-page report that was prepared by the commission chairman‚ Judge Willie Seriti‚ and Judge Thekiso Musi‚ Zuma said the commission found that the widespread allegations of bribery‚ corruption and fraud in the arms procurement process‚ especially in relation to the selection of the preferred bidders and costs‚ had found no support or corroboration in the evidence‚ oral or documentary‚ placed before the commission.

Zuma said on the rationale for the arms packages‚ the commission found it was necessary for the South African National Defence Force to acquire the equipment it procured to carry out its constitutional mandate and international obligations of peace support and peacekeeping.

“On the question of whether the arms and equipment acquired are underutilised or not utilised at all‚ the Commission found that all the arms and equipment acquired are well-utilised‚” Zuma said‚ speaking live on national television.

On whether job opportunities anticipated to flow from the package have materialised‚ the evidence tendered before the commission indicated that the projected number of jobs to be created through the arms procurement process was achieved.

“The commission states that the probabilities are that the number of jobs created or retained would be higher than 11 916.”

Zuma appointed the Arms Procurement Commission in 2011 to investigate and report on allegations of fraud‚ corruption and impropriety or irregularity in the strategic defence procurement package of 1999‚ commonly referred to as the Arms Deal.

The South African National Defence Force acquired‚ among other hardware‚ 26 Gripen fighter aircraft and 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the SA Air Force‚ and frigates and submarines for the SA Navy.

Zuma also said the commission also probed the engagement of consultants by some of the bidding companies.

“The commission points out that the large payments made to consultants gave an impression that the money may have been destined to decision-makers in the arms procurement process and that they may have been bribed.”

Zuma said the fact that some of the consultants knew or had personal contact with some of the senior politicians in the government of the day‚ was cited as corroboration.

“On this point‚ the commission states that not a single iota of evidence was placed before it‚ showing that any of the money received by any of the consultants was paid to any officials involved in the Strategic Defence Procurement Package‚ let alone any of the members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee that oversaw the process‚ or any member of the Cabinet that took the final decisions‚ nor is there any circumstantial evidence pointing to this.”

The commission completed its public hearings and other processes in June last year and handed its final report to Zuma in December last year.

The commission heard testimony from a number of government officials who were involved in the procurement‚ including former president Thabo Mbeki.

It also heard evidence from South African National Defence officials who gave evidence about the need for the armaments.

There was also evidence from anti arms deal campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne‚ losing arms deal bidder Richard Young and arms deal consultant Mandla Hlongwane.

Cabinet ministers and Mbeki told the commission the deal was above board.

Weapons manufacturers and the middlemen involved in the deal also said there was nothing untoward about the procurement. — TMG Digital

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