National 18.8.2016 07:00 pm

Corruption Watch, R2K want arms deal findings set aside

AFP PHOTO

AFP PHOTO

The civil society groups contend a bad precedent has been set for whitewashing to take place by all future commissions of inquiry.

Civil society groups Corruption Watch (CW) and The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) are to challenge the findings of the Seriti Arms Procurement Commission about alleged corruption in South Africa’s R30 billion arms deal.

The organisations said in a statement that the litigation would proceed in the high court in Pretoria next month.

The Seriti commission, which was chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, ended its three-year investigation by stating that it could find no evidence of corruption.

The organisations said this was despite masses of evidence that it failed even to look at during an investigation that cost the public more than R100 million.

“Literally millions of documents, collected and stored by the now disbanded Scorpions, went unexamined,” the organisations said.

They said the aim would be to set aside the outcome of the commission on the basis that it failed to carry out its mandate, which was to carry out a full and independent investigation of the matter.

The commission’s finding has been widely criticised on the basis that it did not carry out a proper investigation and simply accepted evidence that was presented to it by those who were involved in the arms deal, without questioning or testing it.

The organisations said they would not seek the establishment of a new inquiry, but would limit relief to the setting aside of the commission’s findings.

“CW and R2K aim to ensure that of one of the worst examples of corruption in South Africa’s history will not be whitewashed. An order setting aside the findings will provide an important precedent for the conduct of future commissions of inquiry.

“The commission, under Judge Seriti’s leadership, was tainted from the start by procedural irregularities. Crucial information and documents were withheld from the public and from witnesses and participants.

“Vital witnesses were not called, and witnesses seen as ‘critics’ were hampered unfairly. Several commission staff members resigned in protest at the commission’s conduct.

“Arms deal critics, represented by Lawyers for Human Rights, withdrew their participation, contending that they had been treated unfairly.

“CW and R2K contend that the commission did not conduct the inquiry in accordance with its mandate, and that serious procedural irregularities undermine the credibility of its findings,” the organisations said.

 

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