JOHANNESBURG – Chairperson of state-owned airline SA Express, Tryphosa Ramano, on Thursday took a hard stance against allegations of corruption at the company and said the group would open fraud and corruption charges against its erstwhile executive over “multimillion-rand” theft.
Ramano in a statement said the decision to charge the former executives came after a thorough forensic investigation flagged a number of transactions, which might have prejudiced the airline by millions of rand prior to its temporary grounding a year ago.
“The new board of directors of SA Express takes all allegations of impropriety by staff and other stakeholders of the airline very, very seriously,” Ramano said.
“The transactions, which were flagged by the forensic investigation, include multi-million rand cases of alleged collusion with service providers, manipulation of procurement processes, as well as irregular and overpayment of suppliers.”
Ramano could not be drawn to reveal the names of the former executives the company will be opening cases against, saying the airline “will not be commenting further on this issue, pending the action and legal processes that are under way”.
In May last year, the South African Civil Aviation Authority suspended the Certificates of Airworthiness for nine of the 21 aircraft operated by the airline, with the watchdog citing non-compliance in relation to 17 specific findings.
The airline was also grounded for a brief period in 2017.
The grounding last year coincided with the appointment of the Ramano-led board by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, as he went on a reshuffling spree of boards of state-owned companies who often found themselves at the heart of state capture allegations.
Gordhan last year said that SA Express paid R5.7 million to the Gupta-linked Trillian Capital, without following the proper processes.
The government has already issued a R5 billion bailout for SAA, and R1.2bn for SA Express.
Ramano said the airline continued to drive its improved performance and strategic plans on the strength of five strategic pillars, with clear initiatives and outcomes.
“The key pillars are anchored in good corporate governance, working to grow revenue and achieve profitability, engendering operational efficiency, improving our product offerings and services, and retaining and developing competent staff.”
SAA, SA Express and Mango are set to merge, which will see them all fall under one group management structure and pool resources as well as assets, including aircraft.