SAA board duped into prob­ing ten­der

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

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - CAROL PA­TON and NICKY SMITH

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.

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