By Emsie Ferreira
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has refused to respond to a parliamentary question regarding the cost of the 1999 arms deal, saying she cannot do so while the procurement process is under scrutiny by the Seriti Commission.
The minister said in reply to a question from the Freedom Front Plus that supplying the figure could compromise the defence department’s testimony to the judicial commission of inquiry.
"It is the view of the department and its legal representatives that such information, in so far as it relates to the matters under consideration by the commission, has the potential of compromising the department of defence witnesses and their evidence during the commission’s proceedings.” Democratic Alliance defence spokesman David Maynier said he had twice asked the minister the same question and she refused to respond on both occasions.
"It is important to probe the whole question of the life cycle cost because it is likely to prove that the defence department knew that the equipment purchased as a result of the arms deal was unaffordable, given the projected defence budget. If this proves to be true it will be evidence of a monumental failure in the defence acquisition process,” Maynier added.
The commission was appointed by President Jacob Zuma in 2011 to investigate allegations of corruption in the multi-billion-rand arms deal. It is in its third month of hearings but these have been suspended until next week to give Armscor time to have documents declassified by the defence department. - Sapa