Bidder for SAAT tender was cosy with SAA CEO, Zondo commission hears
Johannesburg - An official at the South Africa Airways Technical (SAAT) has told the Zondo commission of various irregularities on the part of senior SAAT officials with regards to a tender for the supply of aviation components.
SAAT forms part of SA Airways and deals with technical support for the national airline and maintenance of its aircraft.
Schalk Hendrick Human, the acting head of department for supply chain management at SAAT, took the stand at the inquiry on Thursday.
Human's evidence focused on SAAT's attempts to procure aviation components. According to him, the company had a contract with Air France in 2012 which was due to expire. SAAT then issued a tender notice requesting bidders. Two bidders were chosen, which split the tender, but the SAAT board later recommended that the tender process be halted as it was only interested in choosing one supplier.
The same tender was re-advertised in 2014 with a closing date in 2015. This same tender was later halted because the board had decided to negotiate a partnership agreement with US-based AAR Aviation, which also supplies aviation products. AAR had also submitted an application to be considered for the components tender.
Human said what was unusual about this tender process was that an official from AAR, Cheryl Jackson, had been in touch with SAA's CEO at the time, Nico Bezuidenhout.
He said it was unusual for a supplier to be in touch with the company while a tender process was underway.
"Miss Jackson (AAR) approached Nico Bezuidenhout, who was acting CEO of SAA at the time. She thanked him for a meeting they had. At the time the board had not stopped the tender. Jackson proposed a partnership tender proposal while the tender process was underway. This is very unusual as it goes against the policy of SAA and SAAT," he said.
Human also highlighted the irregularities regarding a trip to visit AAR's facilities in Chicago, USA, and Miami. A few board members were invited by AAR on the trip including then SAAT head of procurement Advocate Nontsasa Memela and board chairperson Yakhe Kwinana. He said this trip took place at around the same when tender processes were still in place, which made it unusual. Another irregular aspect was that even if the site visit was part of the tender evaluation process, SAAT board members would not be the ones required to attend the site visit.
Kwinana has submitted an affidavit to the commission disputing the account that visits AAR's sites in the USA were irregular.
"If it was an evaluation of service the correct person part of the team would be in attendance on the trip," he said.
The tender was ultimately halted for a third time as SAAT negotiated with AAR. AAR was aware of this tender cancellation before it was formally announced to bidders.
"It strikes me as odd. It appears irregular that a bidder would be aware of cancellation before it is announced. That means the supplier was made aware outside of the procurement process," Human said.