Track the Arms Deal on the Web
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[12 February 2001] - The strategic arms procurement package, known popularly as the arms deal, is arguably the largest scandal to plague South Africa's first democratically elected government. Its a convoluted saga, winding between proof and disproof, and now it's all available on the Internet.
The non-governmental agency Idasa's Political Information and Monitoring Service has put up a website to track the chronology of the arms deal and the process that has unfolded thus far.
The site is a critical look at the process surrounding the arms deal rather than the arms deal itself, focusing on the role of parliament and the legislature (through its Standing Committee on Public Accounts Scopa) as it seeks to deliver judgment on the validity of the deal.
The site contains links to the original source documents that resulted in the procurement package, plus correspondence between President, the Deputy President, the Speaker of Parliament and the Chairperson of Scopa. The legal opinion of Parliaments legal department is also included.
In his Address to the Nation, President Thabo Mbeki said that the South African government would gradually begin implementing egovernment. Already there is a Governmental site containing links to documents, speeches, government members and recent acts.
But non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are essential in democracies, providing a counter-balancing force to prevent the potential abuse of power that occurs in government. As the government goes online, first disseminating information and then providing services online, NGOs must also go online, becoming e-NGOs
A vast amount of information makes up the laws and procedures of a country, often phrased in terms difficult for lay-people to understand. E-NGOs can provide information aggregation services, filtering data, providing expert commentary and then presenting it to civil society in an easily understood manner. NGOs can also fulfill the role of an organizing mechanism and provide a channel for citizens to take government to task something government may not be inclined to provide itself.
Sites like the PIMS arms deal site provide civil society with the information we need to establish how the government is doing, establish our own opinions and act on them.