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.
UNUSUAL STEP: SAA board member Yakhe Kwinana.