Splurge on VVIP jet is veiled in secrecy
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Johanneburg - How do you buy a new aircraft in a hurry for a Very Very Important Person? With a secret account and a few spare billion rand.
Last week, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said her department planned to acquire a VVIP aircraft this financial year.
No details were provided, and this week the Department of Defence ignored queries. The National Treasury referred queries on the procurement of the aircraft to Defence.
“The purchase will be done by the Defence Department through its procurement processes,” Treasury spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane said.
Sources indicated that the plan to replace the VVIP aircraft was decided at cabinet level in 2010, and that four aircraft are wanted.
Costs could be more than R3 billion for the new fleet. The cost estimate is based on the cost of two recent failed deals.
The first was the 2011 attempt by Defence to lease two Embraer Lineage 1000 jets for VIP transport. At the time, the media reported that this deal was worth about R800 million.
The second was last year’s plan to buy a Boeing 777-200 LR executive jet, ultimately cancelled, which would have cost more than R2bn.
Those two deals for three aircraft would together have come to at least R2.8bn. Add a fourth aircraft and the price goes over R3bn.
Shopping is unlikely to be at bargain prices.
Mapisa-Nqakula said last week the purchase would be in this financial year, which gives Defence less than a year to spend.
No tenders appear to have been advertised, which hints that procurement will use the supply-chain management loophole allowing urgent last-minute spending to run without tenders.
The Special Defence Account is likely to be used to fund the aircraft.
The fleet is to be purchased by Defence, but it’s not specified in its budgets. That points to the use of its Special Defence Account, used for buying weapons and equipment, and funding covert activities.
Spending on the account is secret. Money goes into it from the sale of arms, interest payments, and funds from the annual defence budget.
The account is understood to have a surplus of R4.6bn in it this year.
Budgets show broadly what goes into the account, but little detail of what the spending is for. The arms deal was paid for out of this account.
DA MP David Maynier questioned the need for new VVIP aircraft, saying there was a “perfectly serviceable” Boeing business jet available.