Arms deal: Armscor must answer procurement process questions

Another witness at the arms deal commission has called on Armscor to answer questions about the arms deal procurement process.

“There are guidelines drawn up by Armscor which I will not elude to,” said Colonel Frank Viljoen of the SA Air Force in response to questions on the evaluation system which was used to short-list 16 companies to the three which were contenders to supply the helicopters the SA Air Force needed.

Viljoen also testified that he could not answer questions pertaining to the actual costs, economic benefits and the local participation of the deal as this was the realm of Armscor and the department of trade and industry.

Evidence leader Matshego Ramagaga requested Viljoen to address the criticism in the book Devil in the Detail.

The criticism was directed to the choice made between two engines for the Agusta helicopters.

“In particular, after the Auditor-General was able to established that the selection of the Turbomeca engine over the Pratt & Whitney engine (for the Agusta helicopters) was frequently manipulated to the point where the matter was sent back for review four times before the Turbomeca was finally selected despite the Agusta’s frequent protestations against the Turbomeca. Agusta requested the use of Pratt & Whitney engines…” read Ramagaga.

But at the end the Turbomeca engine was chosen even though it was high risk and not certified at the time. According to Viljoen the two Pratt & Whitney engines that were proposed were both certified. The engine offered by Turbomeca (the 2k2) was still under development and was not certified.

Viljoen responded that the criticism was partially correct.

“The end user was the air force. We were neutral in so far as we would have accepted either product provided that there was no risk. From what I can gather from the article, the pressure came from Armscor to force the selection,” said Viljoen and elaborated how the air force has traditionally done business with the Turbomeca and how the force would have gladly conducted business with it.

“We had no problem with the company. We had a problem with the risks we had identified (regarding the Turbomeca engines),” added Viljoen.

The commission has been adjourned until Monday to allegedly give the evidence leaders time to organise the witnesses extracts and annexures that will be brought as evidence.

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