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Johannesburg - A foreign-owned company that falsified its credentials by using fictitious shareholders and blacks as fronts was awarded a five-year contract totalling nearly R1billion by SA Airways Technical (SAAT).

The Sunday Independent can reveal that the company secured the lucrative deal with the assistance of the national airline’s senior employees who manipulated the bidding process to ensure the contract was awarded to the unscrupulous company.

Despite engaging in misleading tender practices relating to fronting, misrepresenting its capacity and infrastructure and failing to submit critical documents including financial statements, Bollore Africa Logistics SA was awarded a contract for logistics and warehousing in May last year by SAAT, a technical and maintenance division of SAA.

A company search reveals that Bollore was registered in January 2012. Its four active directors are two foreign nationals, Jean Bertrand De Pouilly and Tony Arthur Stenning. The other listed directors are locals, Fortunate Ramashidzha and Patrick Moleko.

It has since been revealed that Bollore has sent a letter to SAAT, dated June 20, announcing its intention to withdraw its interest in the contract. Bollore’s withdrawal follows the release last month of the damning forensic audit report compiled by Open Water Advanced Risk Solutions which also implicated senior officials at SAA in manipulating the bidding process.

According to the report, some senior SAAT managers went as far as extending the bid closing date multiple times, solely for the purpose of accommodating Bollore. One of the officials implicated is SAAT’s senior manager Cassie le Roux, who was a member of the cross-functional support team (CSFT) during the bidding process.

The report found Le Roux was conflicted in that specific tender because his daughter was employed by Bollore. The report also found Le Roux also continually communicated with Bollore managing director Arend du Preez.

The report found Bollore had engaged in misleading tender practices, and found the black economic empowerment (BEE) certificate it submitted in support of its bid reflected the company as 32% black female-owned, but that this was not supported by share certificates submitted.

The only remaining female black director at the company, Botle Motau, confirmed to forensic auditors her reservations about the representations made by Bollore in its tender. Motau, who resigned from Bollore in March, was scathing of the company in her resignation letter - which The Sunday Independent is in possession of. She wrote in her resignation letter: “My role as a director has clearly become a ceremonial one, with no powers to contribute towards the direction of the company and its strategy.

“I have not had any decision-making power in any business development initiatives in particular, or any involvement in the general strategic direction of the company as a whole.

“It is high time that Bollore becomes clear on its recognition of the BEE structures and the role these structures play in the organisation.

“There is no respect or even acknowledgement of the BEE structure and women leadership and empowerment,” she said.

Another disgruntled black director spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.

“I’m not going to allow myself to be used. I’m not going to be party to fronting.

“I came here for a transformational agenda, I cannot be a passive shareholder and an active director with a ceremonial role.

“Every time we go to business meetings where black faces are required, we are brought on board. I get paraded in front of clients as a black director and a black shareholder for the sake of bringing business to the company, yet I hold no decision-making powers.

“I know the history of this country and fully understand the government agenda which I’m not prepared to betray,” the aggrieved director added.

“I’m a seasoned senior executive and business person. I used to be very passionate about Bollore but my passion has taken me nowhere.

“There’s no respect for black intellect, no commitment to transformation and no genuine commitment to BEE.

“Their view is a black person can be silenced by a meagre salary. I’m not going to sell my blackness and be party to this.”

Bollore did not respond to questions e-mailed to it on Thursday.

Turning a blind eye to corruption

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali confirmed SAAT had received correspondence from Ballore “notifying us of their decision to terminate the agreement and we have noted their reasons. It would be improper and unprofessional to disclose the reasons they stated in their correspondence without their consent.

“We indicated that they had not started rendering services to SAAT and had been furnished with reasons for the postponement of the commencement date to render such services.”

Tlali added: “We informed them that the reasons for the postponement included a full stock count which needed to take place at our stores - a process that was estimated to last for about eight months due to the size and complexity of the exercise. We further indicated that SAAT was undergoing internal restructuring and during that process all contracts longer than six months would be put on hold.”

Asked about the alleged involvement of senior SAAT staffers in tender manipulation, Tlali said: “The Open Water forensic report has recently been tabled at a board meeting and was adopted. Before its recommendations could be acted upon and in line with the board resolution, that report would have to be tabled at the Audit and Risk committee of SAA.

“We will know what steps to take only after the committee has processed the report. This is an internal procedural requirement we cannot ignore. This means we cannot make any premature announcements.”

But the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) was having none of this, accusing senior executives of turning a blind eye to corruption. Satawu national co-ordinator (aviation) Matthew Ramosie said SAA had commissioned, at a huge cost, several forensic audits, all of which highlighted endemic corruption, maladministration and looting of SAA’s resources by senior executives.

“For many years we have been complaining about how audits are being commissioned, yet senior management does nothing about the audits’ recommendations. We have even approached the SAA board’s finance committee. The finance committee did nothing because they are complicit in the looting and they are also protecting their own interests.”

Ramosie said Satawu had since lodged a complaint with the Office of the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane asking her to investigate “widespread corruption by SAA senior management”

The Sunday Independent