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Johannesburg - They kept SANDF troops waiting for a week for emergency support during the Battle of Bangui in March and overbilled - but this month they got another three-year defence airlift contract.
Y&P Logistics was rehired last month, with effect from October 1.
The contract is for “chartering of aircraft for transportation of troops and supporting equipment to foreign missions on behalf of the Department of Defence over the period of three years”, according to an official note on the tender award.
The contract was advertised in early March, with a closing date of March 26.
That is the month SANDF troops deployed to the Central African Republic (CAR) as part of a peacekeeping mission were attacked by Seleka rebels at Bangui. Fifteen SANDF soldiers died due to that clash.
Y&P was one of five businesses shortlisted for the new airlift contracts - all five appear to have been hired.
One of the others is on the verge of being deregistered as a legal entity, indicating a failed business.
The Star could not trace aircraft registered to any of the five businesses.
Late on Monday, the Department of Defence had not responded to questions about the renewed contract and Y&P’s capacity to do the job.
Y&P said it operated “entirely in compliance” with its contract.
“Y&P has not been informed by the SANDF of any criticism of its work for the SANDF, nor is it aware of or been involved in any investigation into this work by the SANDF or any other party,” said Y&P spokesman James Duncan.
“Further, due process has been followed in terms of the company being reawarded the SANDF contract.”
Duncan said Y&P would co-operate with any SANDF investigation, had briefed lawyers and would protect its interests.
Y&P is a close corporation, not a company, and its sole member, Thigambury Padayachee, has previously listed Armscor as her employer.
Neither Y&P nor Armscor would comment on Padayachee’s links to Armscor.
Y&P did not respond to queries about how many aircraft it owns or leases, and number of staff or pilots.
Armscor, which runs procurement for the Department of Defence, referred all queries to Defence.
DA MP David Maynier called for an investigation into all defence contracts on commercial transport aircraft.
“The awarding of these contracts stinks to high heaven,” said Maynier.
“All the contractors would presumably have to be vetted by defence intelligence as part of the tender process. That does not seem to have happened.”
A report in June by the Department of Defence’s chief of joint operations, Lieutenant-General Derrick Mgwebi, called for an investigation into the civilian contractors used for emergency help in Operation Vimbezela in the CAR.
Mgwebi’s report noted that when the situation deteriorated in Bangui, the CAR capital, on March 22, the SANDF wanted to send in an AN124 (an Antonov strategic airlift jet) to deliver eight Mamba armoured vehicles and a diesel bowser (a mobile tanker) to the troops. But none of the five civilian contractors used by the SANDF had an AN124 available.
Y&P was named as one of the five businesses that did not have aircraft available on March 25.
That night, Y&P was hired to transport troops of 44 Parachute Company to nearby Uganda. “The company could not meet the operational target date also,” said the report.
Y&P took the Mambas and bowser only six days later.
“During the week all SANDF troops were moved from the base to the airport, rebel fighting continued, most of our troops feared for their lives, even while they were next to the runway,” said Mgwebi’s report.
“A civilian company was greedy enough to tender for the job, could not deliver against the operational target date.”
The report said Y&P tendered R23 million for the job, R8m more than the next offer, but billed for R26.75m.
“How is it possible that an aircraft was chartered to meet Joint Operation operational requirements and was allowed to meet the requirement a week later, putting the lives of our soldiers even more at risk?” asked Mgwebi.
Y&P is also accused of entertaining SANDF members at the Carousel Casino on April 19, raising questions over whether this had anything to do with tender awards.
Mgwebi said the processes followed in contracting the five companies that could not provide the services should be investigated.
In September, the minister of defence told Parliament that two inquiries were still going on into Operation Vimbezela, on the deaths of the troops and loss of SANDF equipment.