Picture: ACSA
Picture: ACSA

Three employees at the Airports Company of SA (Acsa) face the axe after a disciplinary inquiry found them guilty of flouting supply chain rules and failing to obtain authorisation to participate in an Acsa empowerment scheme.

The case has drawn in Acsa CEO Bongani Maseko whom the board wanted to suspend in 2017 but who was allegedly shielded by the then-transport minister Dipuo Peters.

In a report of his findings, Adv Thami Ncongwane SC found Jabulani Khambule, GM of regional airports; legal counsel Bongani Machobane; and supply chain head Percy Sithole guilty of most of the charges levelled against them after Acsa suspended them in 2016.

"It is without doubt that the three employees have been found guilty of serious misconduct," said Ncongwane. "All three employees colluded with each other to achieve their nefarious motives. The only appropriate sanction in this regard is dismissal."

The common charge among the three was founding an entity named Shuma Zwavhudi, without authorisation, which they used to divert more than R3m in funds

A senior Acsa manager, who did not want to be named, said the board had received the report.

"I’m assuming that [the board] has seen the report because the report was out on Tuesday or Wednesday," he said on Sunday. "The board is expected to accept the recommendation and to then have them dismissed as per the recommendation."

The manager said the three employees were still on suspension.

Business Day also contacted a board member, who said it has not seen the report, but would act on it.

The common charge among the three was founding an entity named Shuma Zwavhudi, without authorisation, which they used to divert more than R3m in funds meant to empower a co-operative of cleaning companies at OR Tambo International Airport.

The beneficiaries of the scheme only received R200,000 of this amount, according to the charge sheet.

Khambule, Machobane and Sithole elected not to testify, which meant documentary evidence by audit firm Deloitte and another consulting company regarding Shuma’s dealings with Acsa went unassailed.

Machobane was also found guilty of unnecessarily involving the airports operator in litigation with Exclusive Books, incurring "astronomical legal costs" for Acsa. He also kept pertinent information regarding the litigation from the board.

Sithole was found guilty of pressuring a staff member to pay a company for work it did not do, with the staff member refusing to pay. The staff member was later disciplined and demoted.

"[The consulting company] concluded that it appeared … Mr Sithole favoured this service provider more than his employer," said Ncongwane. "[The staff member] was under immense pressure from Mr Sithole, who was her superior, to approve and pay the inflated invoices."

Acsa later reached a settlement agreement with the service provider, signed by Maseko.

The Acsa board attempted to suspend and discipline Maseko in 2017, but was prevented from doing so when Peters "irregularly" reconstituted the board, according to the manager.

"The board is expected to have already made charges against [Maseko] because the board resolution was on February 3 2017," said the manager. "Since then, there hasn’t been any reason why they have not suspended him or disciplined him.

‘There is also a High Court application to push the board to suspend him or to give reasons why they are not suspending him in terms of the Public Finance Management Act. The CEO’s term ends in March 2018 and the problem is if the board doesn’t discipline him for all that, he may leave at the end of March and at the same time currently he is trying to negotiate with the minister and we are told he is trying to negotiate with the ANC to extend his term. And that would be unfair, to extend his term when he has all these disciplinary charges and these three friends have been found guilty."