Picture: GALLO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES/BRIAN BAHR
Picture: GALLO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES/BRIAN BAHR

SA Express will be laying fraud and corruption charges against some of its former executives after a forensic investigation found that a number of transactions may have prejudiced the state-owned airline out of millions of rands.

The airline has endured large losses over the past few years and was grounded by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in May.

This happened on the same day that public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan announced he had appointed a new board at the carrier after the suspension of several executive managers accused of of corruption.

An audit found, among other irregularities, that SA Express paid R5.7m to the Gupta-linked Trillian Capital for advisory services and to raise capital. Trillian Capital has been implicated in allegations of state capture at two other state-owned entities,  Eskom and Transnet. 

SA Express’s chair Tryphosa Ramano said on Thursday the transactions flagged by the forensic investigation included multi-million-rand cases of alleged collusion with service providers, manipulation of procurement processes, as well as the irregular and overpayment of suppliers.

SA Express would not say who the former executives it was taking action against are.

Ramano said the airline was continuing to strengthen its operational efficiency and governance systems.

“The new board of directors of SA Express takes all allegations of impropriety by staff and other stakeholders of the airline very, very seriously,” she said. “This is why the airline is taking this strong action because all allegations involving fraud, corruption and other irregularities demand a robust and prompt response, as well as the severest of sanctions against fingered parties.”

The existence of SA Express has been hanging in the balance with the Cabinet, last year, mulling a plan to restructure the business. Among the issues that need to be decided on is whether SA Express should become a subsidiary of SAA, whether it should be collapsed into SAA, or whether it should be shut down entirely. However, nothing has come of these discussions as yet.

Ramano said the airline continues to drive its improved performance and strategic plans and is working on growing its revenue to achieve profitability and improving its product and services.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za