SAA. File Photo: Mike Hutchings / REUTERS
SAA. File Photo: Mike Hutchings / REUTERS

‘We stand by our story’ - Sunday Indy responds to claims about SAA R200m tender scandal

Time of article published Oct 15, 2019

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Johannesburg - Sunday Independent has noted a baseless and misleading statement released by 21st Century - a consultancy company we exposed in our October 14 edition as the beneficiary of a dubious R200m contract at SAA. 

In a media statement released on Tuesday, CEO Chris Blair claims our story is “inaccurate” and contains “factual errors”.  

Mr Blair says: “The allegations made in the article are grossly inaccurate, implicating 21st Century in underhanded dealings and obtaining the awarded tender via inappropriate channels… Not only was there no relationship with the Acting Board Chair, but there were also no pre-meeting as alleged in the article, with the first time the parties having met at the official presentation round at SAA. All requests and correspondence were conducted via the procurement department at SAA, as it should be”. 

Mr Blair’s claims are unfounded and devoid of any truth. They are also a deliberate distortion of facts with the sole purpose of misleading the public.  

Firstly, our story is based on an internal report commissioned by the SAA Board’s chief risk and compliance officer Advocate Vusi Pikoli. We reported that acting SAA board chairperson Ms Thandeka Mgoduso personally engineered the award of the contract to 21st Century, a consultancy firm with which she is alleged to have a previous working relationship. 

It also revealed that Mgoduso had personally submitted the names of the three companies from which quotations had to be sought, and intervened in 21st Century’s favour when the SAA bid evaluation committee initially scored its competitor higher.  

“I am aware of several meetings held by the Chair (Mgoduso) of Remco (Remuneration Committee) with 21st Century Representatives and Vik at either 21st Century premises or SAA premises. The service provider was briefed all the way by the Chair of Remco (Remuneration Committee) from the beginning up to the end as she (Mgoduso) has meetings with them,” read part of the report.   

The authenticity and veracity of this report has not been denied by its custodian, SAA. Neither has it been disputed by Mr Pikoli and Mr Siyakhula Vilakazi, the SAA chief audit officer who compiled it. 

Secondly, our reporter, Karabo Ngoepe, sent Mr. Blair a list of questions about the contract and the nature of the relationship, if any, between his company and Ms Mgoduso.  

Mr Blair chose not to respond to specific questions, instead he said via Whatsapp: 

“We will respond to all these questions in a formal letter by close of business on Monday. Suffice to say that there was no irregularity in the awarding of the project and you need to make sure of this before publishing anything defamous. We are willing to be interviewed by you at a suitable time.”

We are, therefore, surprised that Mr Blair is now attempting to cast aspersions on our story which is based on a report whose authenticity and veracity its custodians are not questioning.  

It is also mind-boggling that he dedicates his time and energy to attacking us, the messengers, instead of responding to valid questions about how 21st Century got the contract, the fact that it held meetings with Ms Mgoduso during the bidding process, and the nature of the relationship it has with acting the Board chairperson. 

Could Mr Blair please deal with the report and its findings, and stop shooting the messengers to deflect attention from the real issues.  

We stand by our story.

Issued by Sunday Independent 

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