Bosses ‘flouted’ trusted system

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Copy of st armsdeal INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Former secretary for defence Lieutenant-General Pierre Steyn appeared before the commission to give evidence on the 1999 arms deal. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Johannesburg - The 1999 arms deal procurement was irregular and unjustified, the cabinet flouted the law and there was collusion between some top people.

This is according to former secretary for defence Lieutenant-General Pierre Steyn, who started giving evidence on Wednesday morning before the Arms Procurement Commission’s public hearings in Pretoria.

The commission is investigating the 1999 arms deal.

“I will present evidence to show how the executive acted in improper haste to enter into acquisition contracts and in the process, flouted existing legal and departmental prescripts in this regard, as well as ignoring sound and rational advice,” Steyn told the commission.

Steyn is a career officer with 34 years’ experience in the SA Air Force.

He was secretary for defence in the Department of Defence from August 1994 to November 30, 1998, and was thus the accounting officer during that time.

Steyn said as secretary for defence, he was the principal adviser to the minister of defence on defence policy and matters which may be investigated by the Joint Standing Committee on Defence.

He said by the end of 1998, he was unable to exercise his duties as accounting officer.

“In my opinion, the procurement was irregular and unjustified for three main reasons,” said Steyn.

First, he said: “A parallel procurement system was established, which was outside the tried-and-trusted system, and overrode the tried-and-trusted system.”

Second, “there was a reckless disregard of fiscal discipline”, he said.

Third, he said: “An unjustifiable decision was made to purchase British aircraft at considerable extra cost, which was unnecessary.

“The question is why this was done. One of the ways of finding the answer is to ask who benefited from these irregular and unjustified decisions.

“That is the key question I hope the commission will investigate and answer.”

Steyn said the “reckless disregard for fiscal discipline” by the then minister of defence and others at the time made it impossible for him to carry out his duties associated with “a lawful process of acquiring arms and defence equipment”.

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