Fixing SAA means combatting 'organised crime syndicate' - former prosecutions boss

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National carrier SAA has submitted nine forensic reports to the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority for evaluation as it continues to probe fraud and corruption, its leadership told MPs on Wednesday. 

The cash-strapped airline was briefing the portfolio committee on public enterprises on its progress in addressing governance challenges. 

Advocate Vusi Pikoli, the airline's chief risk and compliance officer, told MPs the nine forensic reports were based on investigations at SAA and its subsidiary SAA Technical. Pikoli, a former national director of public prosecutions, joined the carrier in January

The nine reports were "not actually attended to" in the past, said Pikoli. The airline's leadership is "resuscitating" the probes. 

As a result of the submissions, the Hawks registered five case dockets and four inquiries. As investigations continue the four inquiries will be converted into case dockets, the committee heard. Two of the case dockets are now decision dockets at the NPA. This means the prosecutors will consider the quality of evidence in the dockets to determine if prosecution should follow, Pikoli explained.

'Organised crime'

In the mean time the national carrier will continue cooperating with the NPA and Hawks, he added. SAA wants the NPA to look into all nine forensic reports to "make sure no one escapes the net." The fraud and corruption matters relate to procurement fraud at SAA Technical and loss and theft of aircraft component parts, he added.

"We are dealing with an organised crime syndicate," said Pikoli. 

The former head of the NPA said the airline has also referred some matters that implicate former board members to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. One of the matters relates to a decision docket that is already receiving the attention of the NPA.

To address corruption within the company lifestyle audits were being conducted on employees. The airline is also working on creating a culture of ethics, he said, adding the board has adopted a reviewed fraud and corruption policy.

Updating the committee on internal disciplinary action, Pikoli said 29 employees had been subjected to a disciplinary hearing, nine employees had been dismissed and 15 had received a final written warning. Two employees resigned as a result of disciplinary action. There is pending disciplinary action against three more. 

As for matters referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and labour courts by dismissed employees, Pikoli said three dismissals were confirmed by the commission and five matters are pending, while two matters are pending at the labour court.

SIU cases

A total of 84 contracts have been identified as high risk and referred to the Special Investigating Unit.

The contracts have been included in an application for a presidential proclamation which will give the SIU powers to conduct full investigations and to take appropriate action, Pikoli said.

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