SAA defended the use of private bodyguards for executives at a reported price tag of R35 million. Picture: Reuters/Ian Waldie

Parliament - South African Airways (SAA) on Tuesday defended the use of private bodyguards for executives at a reported price tag of R35 million.

Briefing Parliament's standing committee on public accounts, SAA chief executive officer Vuyani Jarana said the outsourcing of security was a response to threats directed at executives looking into wrongdoing at the state-owned airline.

"As early as December last year, some of the executives started receiving threats as we started executing the work of change...on the forensic report. Those were reported accordingly to police," said Jarana.

"At the time, I approached the board and said here is the issue of risk, and taking into account the state of SAA at the time around the levels of trust, both in terms of intent and competence, I felt this was a issue that has to be dealt with by the board."

He said the board then instituted processes to ensure executives are protected.

Jarana said the R35 million price tag attached to a two-year deal with security firm Control Risks for bodyguards, as reported in the Sunday Times, was "hypothetical", adding "outlining the build-up people saw as a figure" could compromise the details of the security plan for executives.

He also denied that the bodyguards were being hired, outside of proper procurement processes, at the expense of staff who faced job cuts.

"It has nothing to do with employee lay-offs. It has to do with forensic reports."

African News Agency/ANA