Arms deal findings: Government officials cleared of any wrongdoing

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A Gripen fighter jet performs at the 2006 Africa Aerospace and Defence show in Cape Town, South Africa Tuesday 19 September 2006. This was the first time the Gripen, bought as part of the controversial arms deal, has been on display publicly.

JOHANNESBURG -- President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday that the arms deal commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti,  found that there was no wrongdoing in the Strategic Defence Procurement Package.

The commission set up by Zuma in November 2011 investigated allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity in the package, more commonly known as the arms deal.

These are the commission’s findings:

  • It was necessary for the South African national defence force to acquire the equipment it procured in order to carry out its constitutional mandate and international obligations of peace support and peacemaking.
  • All the arms and equipment acquired are well utilised.
  • The evidence before the commission indicated that the number of jobs projected 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.
  • The anticipated offsets of the procurement have substantially materialised and adequate arrangements are in place to ensure that those who have not met their obligations do so in the immediate future.
  • The evidence presented to the commission does not suggest that undue or improper influence played any role in the selection of the preferred bidders that ultimately entered into contracts with the government.
  • 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, have found no support or collaboration in the evidence – oral or documentary - placed before the commission. No evidence was found as well through the commission’s own independent inquiries.
  • The commission points out that the large payments made to consultants gave an impression that the money might have been destined for decision makers in the arms procurement process and that they may have been bribed. 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 collaboration. On this point the commission states that not an iota of evidence was placed before it showing that any of the money received by any of the consultants was paid to any of the 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 of this.
  • The preferred bidders confirmed that the money was for the consultants’ services and nothing else. Some of the individuals implicated in the allegations of wrongdoing gave evidence before the commission and refuted the allegations and insinuations levelled against them. None of them was discredited as a witness.
  • Members of the inter-ministerial committee that oversaw the whole process and recommended preferred bidders to the full cabinet gave evidence before the commission and refuted any suggestions that they may have been bribed or unduly influenced in any way whatsoever to take the decision they took. None of them was discredited as a witness.
  • The key members of the technical teams that conducted the extensive evaluations of all the offers gave evidence and refuted any suggestion that they may have been unduly influenced in any way or manipulated to produce the relevant scores or rankings. None of them was discredited as a witness nor was there any credible evidence placed before the commission to refute their testimony.
  • Where the cabinet took a different decision -- for example the selection of BAW HAWK aircraft for the LIFT programme – they gave full reasons of the strategic nature for this decision. Moreover there was no evidence that such a decision was tainted by any improper motives or criminal shenanigans. There was also no basis whatsoever for disbelieving the evidence submitted by the members of the inter-ministerial committee in this regard.

Statement by President Jacob Zuma

See the Arms Deal timeline below