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Pretoria - Several government departments played complementary roles in the controversial arms deal acquisitions, the Seriti Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.
SA Air Force (SAAF) combat systems director Brig-Gen John Bayne was being questioned by Takalani Madima SC, for the defence department.
Madima asked Bayne to respond to critics who vehemently opposed the multi-billion rand strategic defence procurement package, which is commonly referred to as the arms deal.
“Do you have one last word for the commission that would put paid to all the critics, pertaining to what they say regarding the purchases? Is there anything you would like the commission to know?
“What would you like the commission to know in rebuttal of the assertions by the critics regarding the purchase?” Madima asked.
Bayne said the focus of the SAAF team involved in the project had been limited to ensuring the procurement of competent aircraft.
“All I want to say is that the task of the project team, as directed and guided by the air force command council and the project board, was to ensure that whatever aircraft was put through, (our role) was to ensure that all those aircraft would meet the requirement of the air force.
“The risk was evaluated, then the analysis was given. That would have been done on all those aircraft, and tabled at a strategic office committee by a team led by Armscor programme manager, and then taken through a strategic decision making process to the highest level of government,” he said.
However, the final decision on procurement lay with government.
Bayne said he did not take part in the procurement process at a decision-making level.
“I was not part of that, but I would imagine these were strategic defence packages and the final decision then lay with the government. All I know is that we presented the technical. The other departments presented their part.
“From there, with the strategic office committee, we then waited for the final decision when we heard what that aircraft was. We were not in any way party to either the other departmental submissions nor to the strategic process, if I may say, that took place from there,” said Bayne.
After concluding Bayne’s testimony, the evidence leading team called retired Colonel Kevin Viljoen.
Viljoen was led in evidence pertaining to his medals, awards and achievements. He will be on the witness stand when the commission’s public hearings resume on Thursday.
The government acquired, among other things, 26 Gripen advanced light fighter aircraft and 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the SAAF as part of the arms deal.
Last month, evidence leader Matshego Ramagaga said several government entities and departments would make presentations in the initial phase of the commission, which is chaired by Judge Willie Seriti.
“The evidence to be presented during this first phase will be limited to the terms of reference (of the commission) which deals with the rationale, utilisation, and the offsets, including jobs (from the arms deal),” she said at the time.
“The commission intends to lead the evidence of government departments and entities in the first part of the first phase, and also the evidence of those witnesses who criticised the armaments acquisition in the second part of the first phase.”
Ramagaga said the defence and military veterans department, arms procurement parastatal Armscor, and the National Treasury would make presentations on the rationale behind the armaments acquisition.
President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in 2011 to investigate alleged corruption in the 1999 multi-billion rand arms deal. - Sapa