DA urges AG to probe defence tenders

Johannesburg - The DA has called on Auditor General Kimi Makwetu to investigate allegations of irregularities in the awarding of tenders worth more than R200m by the defence department.

"The dodgy defence force air transport tender must be investigated," said Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier in a statement on Friday.

"I am not going to allow the defence department to continue sticking its head in the sand and avoid a proper investigation into the awarding of this controversial tender."

Maynier's comments came after the Mail&Guardian earlier reported that the company that failed South African troops in Bangui, in the Central African Republic last year, had since secured 91 tenders worth R209m.

A tender list compiled for its investigative unit amaBhungane showed that, between last April and this June, aircraft brokering company Y&P Logistics received contracts from the SA National Defence Force, allegedly three times the combined value of business granted to seven other approved bidders.

The newspaper reported that during the battle of Bangui in March last year Y&P Logistics failed to supply an aircraft on time to deliver vital equipment needed by troops on the ground.

Emergency contract

Thirteen South African soldiers were killed and 27 wounded when they were ambushed by rebels in the CAR.

The M&G reported that a senior officer intervened to cancel an emergency contract operations staff had negotiated with a company that had an aircraft available immediately. Y&P, on the preferred suppliers' list, had already said it could not help.

Staff were instructed to try Y&P again and they then said they could deliver the aircraft for the transport of support equipment, including armoured vehicles, to Bangui.

The company which was cancelled still had to be paid for being on standby. Y&P delivered the aircraft days later than it said it would, while soldiers waited at Bangui airport.

Y&P spokesperson James Duncan denied the allegations as "extremely unfair, unsubstantiated, and defamatory", and said the company would institute action against the M&G if it published the allegations.

Maynier said this matter had been ongoing for months, and the DA had raised questions about this tender previously.

"At a meeting of the portfolio committee on defence and military veterans on 9 July 2014, I asked the secretary of defence Sam Gulube whether the defence department were investigating alleged irregularities in the awarding tender for the transportation of troops and supporting equipment."

Procurement process

Maynier said he received a response from Gulube on August 20, which stated that a proper approved procurement process was followed in obtaining the chartered aircraft.

Gulube told him the department had received a claim from a company alleging to have been positioned to supply air transport service at the time of the CAR evacuation. Gulube told Maynier a board of inquiry had been instituted in the matter and it was ongoing.

"What is clear from the reply is that the defence department is conducting an internal inquiry into the awarding of air transport contracts during the battle of Bangui in 2013," said Maynier.

"However, the department of defence is clearly not conducting an internal inquiry into the alleged irregularities in awarding the tender for the transportation of troops and supporting equipment after the battle of Bangui."