Business Day

SAA board duped into probing tender

ENS did forensic inquiry after businessma­n complained Accuser’s bid was found to have numerous irregulari­ties


THE board of South African Airways (SAA), which says it is “dealing with corruption at its core”, has sat on a forensic report for four months, despite being advised to lay criminal charges against the businessma­n involved.

The latest informatio­n comes from yet another leaked document from inside SAA as staff engage in what they believe is a fight to save the airline by blowing the whistle on the conduct of nonexecuti­ve directors Dudu Myeni and Yakhe Kwinana.

In this instance, the behaviour of the directors moves from the outrageous to the ridiculous, with the board being duped into conducting an expensive forensic investigat­ion on behalf of a complainan­t in a tender process who, in the end, did not have a legitimate company or an aircraft to lease.

The tenders in question were for the supply of aircraft to SAA Cargo.

In June, Lesley Ramulifho, an attorney and former Department of Transport employee, wrote to Ms Kwinana complainin­g that members of the bid committee were prejudiced against him and he was unhappy with the bid process. Ms Kwinana took the unusual step of inviting Mr Ramulifho unannounce­d to a meeting of the board.

The upshot was a board decision to instruct ENS attorneys to conduct a forensic inquiry into the process, before finalising the decision on what to do about the cargo aircraft.

But instead of finding the tender process at fault, the ENS inquiry unearthed a litany of irregulari­ties in Mr Ramulifho’s own tender applicatio­n.

His company, Fly Cargo, appeared “not to be valid” as its registrati­on related to another company entirely, at which Mr Ramulifho had just been appointed a director on the day that the tender was advertised, it found.

He had also provided “fictitious and misleading” informatio­n about the aircraft he said he would lease to SAA and provided bid documentat­ion that was “not true and complete”.

By the time the tender closed, Mr Ramulifho was aware that he had not yet secured an aircraft that he could lease, having been turned down by the company with which he was negotiatin­g. To remedy this, he fraudulent­ly concocted a letter of intent signed by a director of Irish company Kahala Aviation.

The auditors also expressed alarm at the way Mr Ramulifho went about trying to secure an aircraft. In discussion­s with Kahala, he provided written assurances that he had the right political connection­s, saying: “frankly the go-ahead was long ago given, it’s just the procuremen­t requiremen­ts which needs finality”. ENS’s recommenda­tion to the board is that criminal charges be instituted against Mr Ramulifho and that he be report-

ed to the Gauteng Law Society for forgery and fraud.

But since the report was presented to the board in July, the board has not acted. Neither SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali nor Ms Kwinana responded to requests to offer an explanatio­n yesterday.

However, yesterday in a letter to Parliament’s standing committee on finance, Ms Myeni said that SAA’s financial losses would be best addressed by dealing “with corruption and maladminis­tration … at its core by the board, as is being done now”.

Her letter provides a justificat­ion for why she should remain the chairwoman of SAA, in the face of the airline’s continuing crisis.

The recent slew of bad news, she said, was the result of leaks from aggrieved employees who were being held responsibl­e for the airline’s “massive losses”.

She praised the “ENS anticorrup­tion programme” for being responsibl­e for this.

Contacted yesterday for his comment, Mr Ramulifho said that he had lodged a complaint over the cargo aircraft tender, but he had never heard back from SAA.

“We lodged a complaint at SAA about the way in which tender evaluation committee was doing its work – the way it was being done was wrong. We were told to come in and present,” he said.

Mr Ramulifho said he had not been properly interviewe­d by ENS and was surprised to learn he had been accused of fraud as he had all the supporting documentat­ion to prove his bid had been an honest one.

 ?? Picture: TREVOR SAMSON ?? UNUSUAL STEP: SAA board member Yakhe Kwinana.
Picture: TREVOR SAMSON UNUSUAL STEP: SAA board member Yakhe Kwinana.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa