AN ITALIAN trainer aircraft‚ the Aermacchi‚ scored higher than its British competitor‚ the Hawk‚ when rated by the strategic offers management committee (Sofcom) for SA’s multibillion-rand arms deal in the 1990s.
But Chippy Shaik‚ then the chief of acquisitions at the Department of Defence‚ introduced new criteria which gave the Hawk an advantage‚ the Seriti Commission of Inquiry heard yesterday.
This emerged during the second day of testimony by Dawie Griesel‚ acting acquisitions GM at Armscor. He is the state arms procurement company’s first witness at the Seriti Commission‚ now in its third month of hearings.
Mr Griesel told the commission that during the presentation by Sofcom to the Armaments Acquisition Steering Board on July 8 and 16 in 1998‚ Mr Shaik introduced a "non-costed option” for the lead-in fighter trainer aircraft (LIFT)‚ which was a deviation from what had been evaluated and consolidated.
This option was a consolidation of the evaluation results for the trainer aircraft but excluded cost. While the Hawk was known to have some added benefits as an aircraft that could double as a fighter jet‚ neither aircraft had been evaluated for this functionality.
Mr Griesel said this implied that the normalised military performance index (used to judge the performance of both aircraft)‚ without having been divided by cost‚ was added to the normalised industrial participation value index and the financing index.
"The exclusion of cost in the military value brought about a change in ‘best value’ scores and also in the ranking of the tenders‚” Mr Griesel said.
But he could not say if‚ after the presentation‚ the added information had contributed to the final Cabinet decision to select the Hawk aircraft.
He said Armscor’s board of directors had the sole authority to authorise preferred bidders and to authorise contractors to be identified as preferred bidders. In the Strategic Defence Procurement Programme process (generally known as the arms deal)‚ some of the evaluation reports were finally approved by the Department of Defence and not by Armscor.
After the Sofcom consolidation and recommendation process‚ information was given to the Armaments Procurement Council. The council then made recommendations to the ministerial committee‚ which in turn made a final recommendation to the Cabinet.
"The procurement process was then outside of Armscor’s control‚” Mr Griesel said.
He said the Armscor process subjected the arms deal to two internal audit reports‚ with the first carried out over the period November 6-30 in 1998 and the second report produced on July 21 1999.
Audits were performed at the request of the GM of aeronautics and maritime in order to inquire whether the processes followed during the valuation of the arms deal were proper and transparent.
The internal audits were carried out by JG Grobbelaar of the internal audit department‚ Dr BJ van Tonder and W van der Walt‚ both from the quality engineering services division.
The audit reports concluded that "no evidence of improper conduct” was found on the part of any of the Armscor employees involved in the evaluation of the various proposals. © BDlive 2013