SAA tap danc­ing around prob­lem


The Citizen (KZN) - - News - Eric Naki er­[email protected]­i­

Em­bat­tled air­line’s financial state­ments were due to be sub­mit­ted on Wed­nes­day.

South African Air­ways (SAA) could be in breach of the law and dragged be­fore the par­lia­men­tary stand­ing com­mit­tee on pub­lic ac­counts (Scopa) for fail­ing to at­tend a com­mit­tee meet­ing and to sub­mit its financial state­ments on Wed­nes­day this week.

By not ap­pear­ing af­ter be­ing no­ti­fied about the meet­ing, SAA con­tra­vened sec­tion 55 of the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act. Also, in terms of the law, the com­mit­tee has the power to force SAA via a sub­poena to ap­pear be­fore it.

Scopa mem­bers ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment when the com­mit­tee re­ceived a last-minute e-mail from the air­line in­form­ing com­mit­tee chair­per­son Mkhuleko Hlengwa of its non-avail­abil­ity.

It was ex­pected to sub­mit its an­nual re­port and a le­gal opin­ion stat­ing why it should not be placed in busi­ness res­cue. SAA has failed to present its financial state­ments for the last two financial years.

It gave no rea­son for not at­tend­ing but it is un­der­stood that SAA lead­er­ship wanted to avoid an au­dit by the au­di­tor-gen­eral’s of­fice be­cause it feared get­ting a dis­claimer re­port.

Ear­lier, SAA non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Martin Kingston said if SAA pre­pared financial state­ments on the ba­sis of be­ing a go­ing con­cern there was a risk of re­ceiv­ing a dis­claimed au­dit opin­ion, which it was not pre­pared to shoul­der.

The other op­tion was to pre­pare the state­ments on the ba­sis of liq­ui­da­tion, but this would have cat­a­strophic con­se­quences.

Hlengwa said Scopa was con­sid­er­ing a le­gal opin­ion it sought from the par­lia­men­tary le­gal ser­vices on the non-at­ten­dance by the SAA lead­er­ship.

He said the com­mit­tee had de­cided to visit SAA on Thurs­day next week to hold dis­cus­sions with the board, the depart­ment of pub­lic en­ter­prises, Na­tional Trea­sury and the au­di­tor-gen­eral’s of­fice.

It planned to en­gaged Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han to as­sist SAA in deal­ing with its chal­lenges and to en­sure it de­liv­ered the out­stand­ing financial state­ments.

Demo­cratic Al­liance com­mit­tee mem­ber Alf Lees con­demned SAA’s “bla­tant lack of co­op­er­a­tion” with par­lia­ment.

“SAA’s ar­ro­gance is in­cred­i­ble, es­pe­cially given the fact that this state-owned en­tity [SOE] has cost tax­pay­ers R57 bil­lion and con­tin­ues to op­er­ate at mas­sive losses with no ben­e­fit to the poor.

“It is no se­cret that SAA cur­rently finds it­self in an in­sol­vent financial sit­u­a­tion, which is drain­ing the na­tional fis­cus, bailout af­ter bailout,” Lees said.

The air­line has just emerged from a crip­pling strike by dis­grun­tled mem­bers of the Na­tional Union of Me­tal­work­ers of South Africa and the South Africa Cabin Crew As­so­ci­a­tion.

The strike ended when the strik­ers ac­cepted a 5.9% wage in­crease with SAA promis­ing a fur­ther in­crease when its financial po­si­tion was back to nor­mal.

“This con­tin­ued lack of co­op­er­a­tion from SAA will in no doubt pro­vide zero aid to their cur­rent dire financial sit­u­a­tion, and it makes par­lia­ment’s role of over­sight in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to achieve,” Lees said.

SAA spokesper­son, Tlali Tlali said the air­line de­nies any sug­ges­tion it had not co­op­er­ated fully with par­lia­ment.

It had per­mis­sion from Hlengwa to have its ap­pear­ance de­ferred.

He said the SAA board and ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee ar­rived in Cape Town on Wed­nes­day in time to present a com­pre­hen­sive re­port to Scopa at the sched­uled time, 6pm.

“The per­mis­sion to de­fer the meet­ing had not been re­ceived at the time the SAA team de­parted from Johannesbu­rg.

“Given the sig­nif­i­cant and on­go­ing de­vel­op­ments in re­spect of the sus­tain­abil­ity of the air­line, SAA wel­comed the de­fer­ment. Ar­range­ments are be­ing fi­nalised for Scopa to visit SAA next week.

“All in­for­ma­tion re­quested has been sub­mit­ted to the share­holder,” he said. –

Scopa will visit SAA of­fices next week

Pic­ture: Lil­lian Mo­gauwe

CHANG­ING STANCE. Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) sec­ond deputy-pres­i­dent Louise Thipe, left, sec­re­tary-gen­eral Bheki Nt­shal­intshali, cen­tre, and pres­i­dent Zingiswa Losi brief me­dia on the out­come of their cen­tral ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing at Cosatu House in Johannesbu­rg yes­ter­day.

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