Judge Willie Seriti during the Arms Procurement Commission hearing at Sammy Marks Square, Pretoria. File picture: Oupa Mokoena

Cape Town – South Africa’s Seriti Commission of Inquiry, which was set up to investigate allegations of corruption and bribery in the 1999 arms-procurement deal, cost almost R140 million.

This was revealed by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha in response to a question by the Democratic Alliance’s David Maynier.

“The total amount spent on the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of Fraud, Corruption, Impropriety or Irregularity in the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages as at 31 March 2016 is R137 264,521,” read Masutha’s response.

The bulk of total expenditure from 2012 to 2016 – R82,8 million – went to “evidence leaders”. Pocketing the most were senior evidence leaders Simon Lebala (R13,07 million), Tshepo Sibeko (R11, 55 million), and Moss Mphaga (R10,19 million), as well as evidence leader Matshego Ramagaga (R11,52 million).

In total, there were five senior evidence leaders and five evidence leaders.

The next biggest share of the total expenditure on the Seriti Commission was on employees’ salaries at R30 350,780, followed by payment of forensic auditor Jabulani Mahlangu who, in total, received R9,78 million.

Another noteworthy amount was that of “Travel and Subsistence” which clocked R7 294,171 for the Commission’s years in operation.

The response by the Minister came just under a month after the Commission concluded its work.

The Commission was announced in 2011 by Masutha’s predecessor Jeff Radebe, two years into Jacob Zuma’s tenure as President. Zuma’s establishment of the Commission is widely considered to have been done under duress, and the commission itself was dogged by allegations of bias, exclusion of witnesses, and a flood of senior staff resignations.

The mandate of the Commission was to investigate allegations of large-scale bribery and corruption in the multi-billion rand military acquisition project which was finalised in 1999, during former President Thabo Mbeki’s tenure.

The commission found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Cabinet of the day or any government official

Zuma, upon the release of the report, said the commission found no support or corroboration for allegations of corruption in selecting the arms manufacturers contracted by the South African government, and encountered not a shred of evidence that any of the “senior politicians in the government of the day” were bribed.

“On whether any person or persons improperly influenced the award or conclusion of any of the contracts in the procurement process, the commission found that the evidence presented before it does not suggest that undue or improper influence played any role in the selection of the preferred bidders, which ultimately entered into contracts with the government,” Zuma said.

The controversial R70 billion arms deal had for years been tainted by allegations of corruption.

African News Agency