President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has been urged to intervene in a R1.4 billion tender fallout involving SAA Technical (Saat) and a local company which believes the contract was rigged in favour of Belgian firm Ziegler Logistics.

In a letter to the president dated November 14, 2019, Vincent Oilers accused Saat chief executive Adam Voss and two other government officials of having abused their positions to benefit their cronies, thus perpetuating socio-economic injustice against black professions.

The tender at the centre of the storm was advertised on December 18, 2018, for a service provider to provide door to door logistics services and customs clearing for a period of five years.

Vincent Oilers was one of the bidders in partnership with a Chinese state-owned entity Sinoair.

Bidders were required to have offices or partnerships with agencies in the US, France, England, Germany and Israel.

Nozipho Mbatha, managing director of Vincent Oilers, said in her letter that Ramaphosa needed to intervene due to what her company deemed to be extremely reckless and the dereliction of duty by various government officials.

“It seems the socio-economic justice of black business, black professionals and black workers in this country are under attack and this administration is not only enabling such but is at the forefront of perpetuating it.

“How do officials and politicians in these departments blatantly allow such levels of lawlessness to take place?

“The corporate veil has to be pierced on institutionalised corruption in this country. It is bleeding our economy, it is destroying society and sooner than later we will no longer be a country at peace with itself and others,” Mbatha said.

She requested action against Schalk Human, the head of procurement at Saat who oversaw the procedure over the tender, national Treasury chief procurement officer Willie Mathebula, who is mandated to provide oversight on matters of public procurement, and Saat’s Voss.

Vincent Oilers accused the trio of tender rigging and failure to comply with the country’s procurement and empowerment laws.

Attempts to get a comment from Ramaphosa’s office were unsuccessful. His spokesperson, Khusela Diko, failed to respond to questions sent to her on Thursday.

Mbatha said after receiving a letter of regret from Saat on September 30, 2019, her company requested bid records - including pricing and score cards - to “satisfy ourselves whether the tender award was lawful or we had grounds to legally challenge it thus seek relief from the court to set aside the appointment”.

Mbatha said they wanted to understand Ziegler Logistics’ ownership structure, and whether it had a BEE partner as required for deals worth over R30 million. However, Saat turned it down, she added.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali yesterday confirmed that Mbatha had been denied access to the scoring sheets but insisted she was allowed access to other less sensitive records.

“Responses were sent to Bowman Gillfillan (Bowmans) (Vincent Oilers legal reps) responding to issues raised for clarification on October 31, 2019, and November 10, 2019, respectively.

“Saat has responded to the request. Scoring sheets are not shared with competitors as they contain costing and pricing per element. Our feedback process is designed to provide transparent feedback to an unsuccessful supplier,” said Tlali

“The winning bidder passed the critical criteria and functional scoring and had the highest number of points in terms of the PPPFA (Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act) Regulations 2017 where 90/10 preference points are applicable. The bidder with the highest points are awarded the bid.”

Mbatha further questioned the rationale behind a struggling SOE that is always seeking bailouts taking money out of the country.

“These SOEs are always bailed out by South African taxpayers’ money, yet here they are busy awarding a multi-billion rand contract to foreign-owned businesses and nobody wants to account. As a country, we keep on hearing how SAA is suffering financially and corruption is always mentioned. But when are we going to be taken into confidence as to why is that happening? Who is being held accountable and what measures are being taken to ensure it stops? Instead, we must continue to lose our assets to foreign-owned private entities,” Mbatha said.

She told Ramaphosa that the directors of Vincent Oilers found it prudent to seek his intervention before approaching courts as the aviation industry was highly sensitive.

“As patriotic citizens, we understand that once we approach the High Court this matter will also be public and we will have to engage on it publicly. Saat has a dark cloud over it, an investigation for aircraft parts smuggling and tax evasion of companies using this entity, which even led to a recent grounding of aircraft, is not a matter to be taken lightly. To observe the behaviour of public officials blatantly breaking the law like this and refusing to account is unacceptable.”

Sunday Independent