File photo

Johannesburg - A South African Airways employee who forged signatures of the airline’s senior executives to manipulate a multi-million rand tender in which she allegedly benefited financially is being protected by the airline’s other senior executives.

Despite the seriousness of her misconduct, she escaped with a written warning.

Making matters worse is that the national carrier’s human resources department has no record of such a warning. The Sunday Independent understands this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Sources say corruption is deeply entrenched within the airline’s procurement department, and that this goes unpunished as senior executives turn a blind eye because they are complicit in the siphoning of the troubled airline’s funds.

This is widely believed to be one of the contributory factors to the financial collapse of the airline that has prompted it to ask for a government bailout.

A few days ago, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba told Parliament that the National Treasury was considering various options to recapitalise SAA, including the Public Investment Corporation as a possible equity partner.

The Sunday Independent has seen a report compiled by a top law firm which investigated a R13.6 million CCTV maintenance and installation tender awarded to Vusubheki Management Services last February without due procurement processes being followed.

In the report, released last month, SAA’s sourcing specialist Naomi Kwinda is accused of compiling a fake document with forged signatures of the airline’s senior management to ensure the contract was awarded to Vusubheki Management Services, an IT security solutions company headquartered in Kempton Park.

The report reveals how the tender was never presented to the bid adjudication committee (BAC) for approval and how the submission compiled by Kwinda addressed to SAA’s acting chief executive, Musa Zwane, requesting approval of the evaluation criteria and condonement of the flawed tender process, was not signed by the chief executive.

The documents further reveal how shortly after the awarding of the contract, Kwinda, who earns a monthly net salary of R26 000, went on a shopping spree, acquiring several properties, cars including a Range Rover and a top of the range motorbike. The report says when asked to elaborate on the reasons for failing to follow due procurement processes and violating SAA’s supply chain management policies by not obtaining the airline’s bid adjudication committee’s approval of the evaluation criteria, Kwinda apologised and attributed her transgressions to a “horrible divorce” which made her unable to cope emotionally.

The report says Kwinda went as far as recommending that her line manager issue her with a warning, a sanction she was ultimately given, despite SAA’s employee relations department recommendation that Kwinda be subjected to a formal disciplinary process. The report further reveals how Kwinda’s line manager Thami Sogwazile ignored advice to draft charges and convene a disciplinary hearing.

He argued that a sanction of 12 months’ written warning would be in line with SAA’s policies as he believed that “reasons provided by Naomi are satisfactory to me and also the fact that she has taken it upon herself to be rehabilitated after her divorce is a positive step forward”.

According to a limited lifestyle audit conducted by the law firm on Kwinda, she bought properties and vehicles shortly after Vusubheki Management Services secured the contract. and her lifestyle was found to be inconsistent with her salary. The report recommends amongst others that the acting chief executive, Musa Zwane be given the opportunity to explain his role in the matter of Kwinda.

It also recommended that SAA lodge a criminal case of forgery against Kwinda for falsifying signatures of senior officials at SAA.

It also urges SAA to authorise the investigators to apply for a Section 205 “in order to access bank statements of Kwinda’s personal accounts, bond accounts and investments, including bank statements of companies linked to her to verify her source of income, given the inconsistencies regarding her salary and the assets she owns, especially the assets she purchased after the award of Vusubheki contract”.

The report further recommends that SAA classify the tender awarded to Vusubheki Management Services as irregular and report the expenditure to relevant committees.

Attempts to secure a comment from Vusubheki Management Services, whose directors are listed as Elias Bongani Msiza and Nkoana Stephens Monama, drew a blank.

Calls to the company’s landline numbers provided on its website for Johannesburg and its regional office in Nelspruit were met with an automated message saying the numbers were no longer in service.

The Sunday Independent sent questions to Zwane and SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni.

Zwane did not respond while Myeni referred all enquiries to SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali.

Questions were also e-mailed to Kwinda who said she was on maternity leave. She, too, referred The Sunday Independent to Tlali who confirmed that Kwinda was still employed by SAA.

“We are aware that there were investigations conducted at SAA into suspected irregularities at certain areas of the business,” said Tlali.

“The reports and possible recommendations contained therein have yet to be tabled at appropriate structures such as the board for adoption by the company. This means management is not aware of the outcomes of such investigations and recommendations made in those reports and could not have acted on the basis of what has yet to be shared with them.”

Tlali insisted the airline “subscribes to good corporate practice and is intolerant of corruption or any criminality from anyone and would not hesitate to act when there is factual and/or legal basis to do so”.

Some of the key findings in relation to the CCTV tender:

* Kwinda misled the bid adjudication committee (BAC).

* Kwinda compiled a fake document with forged signatures of management.

* The line manager ignored the advice to institute a formal disciplinary hearing for Kwinda.

* The legal advice sought regarding disciplinary process was ignored by the line manager.

* The flawed tender process was not condoned by the delegated authority.

* The bid adjudication committee was misled into approving the award without the approval of the condonation of the flawed tender process.

* The BAC resolution regarding the approval of the contract was found to be misleading.

The Sunday Independent