File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Johannesburg - The company accused of falsifying its credentials by using fictitious shareholders and blacks as fronts to secure a five-year multimillion-rand contract with SA Airways Technical (SAAT) has denied any wrongdoing.

The Sunday Independent reported last week on a forensic audit report by Open Water Advanced Risk Solutions which revealed how Bolloré Africa Logistics SA secured a lucrative logistics and warehousing deal totalling nearly R1 billion with the assistance of national airline’s senior employees who manipulated the bidding process to ensure the contract went to the company.

However, Bolloré’s managing director, Tony Stenning, queried every aspect of the report, insisting Bolloré had not engaged in any misleading tender practices such as fronting and misrepresenting its capacity and infrastructure. He also questioned the R1bn figure, saying according to its estimation, the contract was worth “just over R300m”.

“We haven’t seen that report. After The Sunday Independent published the story last week we contacted Open Water asking for it. But they refused to give us the report, telling us it was meant for SAA. We find it strange that the auditing firm could make such adverse findings against us when they did not give us the opportunity to state our case,” said Stenning.

When he was made aware that some of Bolloré’s directors had been interviewed during investigations, Stenning said he had not been aware of that. “I can promise there was no intention to mislead anyone in terms of the company status. Our BEE structure is genuine. I can give you the bid that we submitted to show that there is no fraud that was committed.”

Stenning was responding to claims by Bolloré’s former director, Bontle Motau, who wrote a scathing resignation letter accusing the company of fronting and using blacks to secure lucrative contracts.

“Bolloré is not a front but (a) genuine company that does clean business in line with government regulations. I totally refute Miss Bontle’s claims that she and other black directors were being fronted I came here five years ago. I’m the one who was responsible for setting up Bolloré Africa Logistics SA. I know Bontle very well. I was sad to see her leaving. But I can categorically state that we treated her fairly,” said Stenning. “We train many of our black employees to upskill them. We hope in the near future this company will be run an managed exclusively by black people whom we have upskilled.”

Asked if it was a coincidence that Bolloré withdrew from the contract just weeks after Open Water released the report, Stenning said: “We were given a letter of intent in May 2016, to date no contract signed. Since that date, up to the beginning of this year we heard nothing from SAAT. Instead, we received an email from them in March this year informing us that that all contracts at SAA were being reviewed. We had a board meeting on 20 June where it was decided we withdraw from the bid because, clearly there was no intention on the part of SAA to enter into a contract with us.”

Stenning also denied reports that SAAT’s senior manager Cassie le Roux, who was a member of the cross-functional support team (CSFT) during the bidding process was conflicted because his daughter was employed by Bolloré and that Le Roux had continually communicated with Bolloré managing director Arend du Preez.

“Firstly, I don’t know Cassie le Roux and I have never met him. His daughter was employed by one of our structures in 2013. She left early 2015 before any bidding process at SAAT could begin. Du Preez also left our company before the bidding could start. He wasn’t involved at all in the bidding process.”

Stenning did not rule out the possibility of pursuing legal action to challenge the report which he said was very damaging to his company’s reputation.

Sunday Independent