Two tenders for arms deal copters

Tender processes were changed in the arms deal procurement stage.

This was the core of the evidence led before the Arms Deal Procurement Commission in Pretoria today.

Colonel Frank Kevin Viljoen, air force project officer for the light utility helicopters, said in 1995 the force’s requirements for helicopters was approved.

Sixteen potential bidders were contacted.

He testified that these bidders were evaluated through Armscor’s evaluation process, which short-listed three companies.

“All relevant documentation had been promulgated. One would normally go out on request for info which was done. The next stage would then be the request for offer or proposal. However, at that stage, the (arms deal) process was starting to overtake our normal or traditional process. We were requested to issue a second request for information,” he said.

He said that in 1999, after a bidder was chosen and the contract negotiations were completed, an agreement was signed for the purchase of helicopters.

Thirty helicopters were ordered from Italian manufacturer Agusta.

Viljoen’s testimony is based on his knowledge of the procurement process the SAAF embarked on to replace the Alouette lll helicopter with the Agustas.

In his opening statements, he testified briefly about the bidding process and the final contractual agreement between the country and the preferred bidder.

Viljoen is the third witness from the air force and comes after Brigadier General John William Bayne, who testified on the combat training systems and the capabilities of the Hawk and the Gripen.

Bayne’s testimony pointed to government’s role in the final acquisition steps.

He testified that it was not the role of the force to finalise the purchase of the Hawk and Gripen.

The force’s responsibility was to set the requirements and “higher entities” decide what to buy.

“As a project officer, my job was to ensure that those products that were forwarded into the process would meet the requirements of the air force. The air force is not the body that decides,” he said

Both testimonies eluded to the dominant roles played by government and the acquisition wing of the defence department, Armscor.

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