Rhino airwing contract fiasco

2015-11-02 10:56
(Stephane de Sakutin, AFP)

(Stephane de Sakutin, AFP)

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Pietermaritzburg - A former hospital finance officer with no aviation experience was nearly handed a R500 000 contract to run the province’s rhino anti-poaching airwing.

Xolani Qwabe, now a businessman who professes to run security contracts for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, admits that while he had no experience in operating an aircraft business, he had won the contract. However, he was forced to pull out because no one would supply him with the helicopters.

Neither did he have pilots or an Aviation Operating Certificate (AOC), a prerequisite for operating commercial helicopter services.

But just how he was awarded the contract has left insiders perplexed.

Qwabe, who once worked for the Department of Health at the Emmaus Hospital, Winterton, was awarded a two-month contract to run the Zululand Anti-Poaching Airwing (ZAP-Wing) for June and July, pipping both the existing operators, BAC Helicopters and King Shaka Aviation, which had been running the contract jointly for the previous 24 months.

The extension was expected to tide over the embattled environmental organisation, which in turn was trying to finalise a three-year contract expected to commence in August.

But Qwabe maintains he should have been helped by the existing industry players, who he said, bar one, refused to help him.

“I was new to this field. The other guys feel they are entitled to this contract. They pushed me away,” he said.

But BAC Helicopters’ Lucy Erasmus said she was unable to assist Qwabe because the price he tendered to Ezemvelo was below her operating cost, and he had no operating certificate.

“We had also bid for the same contract and we certainly weren’t going to do it at a loss. He was fairly unhappy that we turned down his offer,” she said.

Eventually Qwabe, close to the day he was expected to start flying the service, pulled out.

A source with knowledge of the aviation contract said it was unusual for a new company to be awarded a short-term extension over the existing service suppliers.

The Witness has previously reported that a series of delays in finalising the three-year tender had resulted in Ezemvelo’s anti-poaching airwing being grounded for nearly three months.

The organisation said the delay in awarding the contract to a new service provider for the Hluhluwe-based ZAP-Wing lay in the slow process of awarding tenders and poor attendance at critical decision-making meetings.

Earlier this month Ezemvelo called a press conference where acting CEO Dr David Mabunda said that three companies that had been shortlisted were unable to meet the specifications of the contract.

However, a document leaked to The Witness shows that the organisation terminated the tender process due to costs.

The document, signed just seven days after the press briefing by the senior manager of supply chain management, Portio Mosikare, said the “bid has been cancelled for affordability reasons”.

Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo said nine service providers were requested to quote for the two-month extension.

“Only three responded and Mr Qwabe was one of the three providers. All providers who quoted were required to prove that they will have access to helicopters.

“In other words, they did not have to own helicopters but to provide proof that they had such access, or could procure them instantly,” he said.

Mntambo said both the inability to supply helicopters and affordability were factors why they terminated the three-year tender.

Read more on:    ezemvelo kzn wildlife  |  durban  |  pietermaritzburg  |  poaching  |  aviation  |  conservation  |  rhino poaching

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