In The News South Africa

SAA’s R1bn fronting stink exposed

Staff Reporter

South African Airways (SAA) awarded a five-year contract to a foreign-owned company which not only falsified its credentials but knowingly used blacks as fronts, the Sunday Independent reported on Sunday.

It is alleged in the report that senior executives at SAA played their part, manipulating the bidding process to ensure that the lucrative warehousing and logistics contract went to a company called Bollore Africa Logistics SA.

“Despite engaging in misleading tender practices relating to fronting, misrepresenting its capacity and infrastructure and failing to submit critical documents including financial statements, Bollore Africa Logistics SA was awarded a contract for logistics and warehousing in May last year by SAAT, a technical and maintenance division of SAA,” the Sunday Independent wrote.

The Sunday newspaper also revealed that in their investigations into the mess it has transpired that Bollore sent a letter to SAA on June 20 stating that it wishes to withdraw its interest in the contract, this after the release last month of a “damning forensic audit report compiled by Open Water Advanced Risk Solutions which also implicated senior officials at SAA in manipulating the bidding process”.

“According to the report, some senior SAAT managers went as far as extending the bid closing date multiple times, solely for the purpose of accommodating Bollore. One of the officials implicated is SAAT’s senior manager Cassie le Roux, who was a member of the cross-functional support team (CSFT) during the bidding process.

“The report found Le Roux was conflicted in that specific tender because his daughter was employed by Bollore. The report also found Le Roux also continually communicated with Bollore managing director Arend du Preez,” wrote Sunday Independent.

The newspaper was able to track down two black directors who claim they were used as tokens, and paraded in front of boards whenever needed. The first, Botle Motau resigned earlier this year and was scathing about the company in her resignation letter, pulling no punches.

The resignation letter, that Sunday Independent says it has a copy of, included: “My role as a director has clearly become a ceremonial one, with no powers to contribute towards the direction of the company and its strategy.

“I have not had any decision-making power in any business development initiatives in particular, or any involvement in the general strategic direction of the company as a whole.

“It is high time that Bollore becomes clear on its recognition of the BEE structures and the role these structures play in the organisation.

“There is no respect or even acknowledgement of the BEE structure and women leadership and empowerment,” she said.

Another black director, who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity, told the Sunday paper: “I’m not going to allow myself to be used. I’m not going to be party to fronting.

“I came here for a transformational agenda, I cannot be a passive shareholder and an active director with a ceremonial role.

“Every time we go to business meetings where black faces are required, we are brought on board. I get paraded in front of clients as a black director and a black shareholder for the sake of bringing business to the company, yet I hold no decision-making powers.

“I know the history of this country and fully understand the government agenda which I’m not prepared to betray,” the aggrieved director added.

“I’m a seasoned senior executive and business person. I used to be very passionate about Bollore but my passion has taken me nowhere.

“There’s no respect for black intellect, no commitment to transformation and no genuine commitment to BEE.

“Their view is a black person can be silenced by a meagre salary. I’m not going to sell my blackness and be party to this.”

Sunday Independent says that when asked about the alleged involvement of senior SAAT staffers in tender manipulation, Tlali said: “The Open Water forensic report has recently been tabled at a board meeting and was adopted. Before its recommendations could be acted upon and in line with the board resolution, that report would have to be tabled at the Audit and Risk committee of SAA.

“We will know what steps to take only after the committee has processed the report. This is an internal procedural requirement we cannot ignore. This means we cannot make any premature announcements.”

According to the paper, SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) was not forgiving, accusing senior executives of turning a blind eye to corruption. Satawu national co-ordinator  Matthew Ramosie said SAA had commissioned, at a huge cost, several forensic audits, all of which highlighted endemic corruption, maladministration and looting of SAA’s resources by senior executives. The paper says Ramosie said Satawu had since lodged a complaint with the Office of the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane asking her to investigate “widespread corruption by SAA senior management”.

 

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