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Zondo commission hears how SA Express contract ballooned to R2.4bn

Published Jun 25, 2019


Johannesburg - SA Express airport coordinator Estelle Loock has detailed how a Pretoria-based empowerment company, EML Engineers and Construction’s jet fuel supply was irregularly expanded by the state-owned airline in 2017, resulting in the contract ballooning to R2.4-billion.

Loock, who testified before the Zondo commission into state capture on Monday and Tuesday, said EML had been controversially roped in after the airline experienced jet fuel problems at North West Pilanesburg Airport where a supplier which was previously approved by the Airports Company of SA was flagged for supplying fuel who quality was questionable.

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She told the commission that she was tasked to find a solution to the problem as SA Express aircrafts from Cape Town had to refuel in Pilansburg in order to be able to return to Cape Town, which resulted in a resolution for a deviation.

On Tuesday, Loock said while she initially requested quotation from EML for the transportation of 8 500 litres of fuel per week from Johannesburg to Pilansburg, the scope of EML was expanded beyond the specified deviation when she had handed the process to the then chief procurement officer Sam Vilakazi for finalisation.

“Only at the later stage when it was sent to my divisional manager, that I was aware that there was a contract signed,” Loock said.

The dodgy deal, whose expansion now included provision of fuel to stations where South African Airways had been contracted to supply fuel at a 30% price hike, would see EML being paid R67-million a month.

“The problem with this was that the services that were required were only two, which was on the technical side of the refuelling and defuelling and on the Pilansburg side of fuel supply. However, this contract contained every single station that SA Express operated in, which was a concern. I was aware that there was an SAA agreement at the ACSA airports, however all those were included in this agreement,” Loock said.

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