Tuesday, February 10, 2009

End of gravy plane for SAA boss?

The government, South African Airways' (SAA's) only shareholder, has called an extraordinary meeting for tomorrow to discuss allegations brought against the airline's head, Khaya Ngqula, and members of his executive committee.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) has handed a dossier containing allegations of wrongdoing against senior management to Public Enterprises Minister Brigitte Mabandla.

The Sunday Times reported last weekend that the allegations came as SAA prepared to clinch a catering deal estimated at R3,5bn with a consortium involving Vusi Sithole, a business partner of Ngqula's wife, Mbali Gasa.

French company Servair was the preferred bidder to supply about 180000 weekly in-flight meals on SAA's domestic routes, the Sunday Times said.

The public enterprises department, to which SAA reports, gave the carrier's board an opportunity to discuss the matter at its meeting on Friday. According to the department, the board is supposed make a proposal on how the matter should be handled.

"We will work with the board of SAA to ensure that the issues raised are thoroughly and independently investigated," the department said .

SAA said on Friday it was instituting an investigation into Ngqula and members of his executive committee after the union's allegations.

SAA said Satawu's documents were discussed at the meeting. The company said a committee of nonexecutive directors had been set up to investigate the allegations.

SAA said the investigation would look at retention premiums, allegations of a conflict of interest, and procurement.

Ayanda Shezi, the department's spokeswoman, said yesterday the meeting had been called for tomorrow to discuss the matter.

On Friday, the department said it viewed the allegations against Ngqula in a serious light, hence tomorrow's meeting "to bring this matter to an expeditious and objective resolution".

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