Tue, 15 Oct 2019

The financial statements of SA Express have been signed off by auditors and are set to be presented to Cabinet, an official told the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture on Thursday.

In September 2018, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said the airline, which falls under SAA, was among state-owned companies expected to miss the deadline to table their audited financial statements.

The inquiry has been investigating allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud at state entities since August 2018.

Giving evidence for the first time before the commission of inquiry, SA Express General Manager for Commercial, Arson Phiri, revealed the financial statements for 2018/19 had been audited.

"The statements for 2018/19 have been audited and signed off by auditors but are not yet in the public domain. They have to go through our shareholder," said Phiri.

Phiri made submissions to the commission about agreements between the airline and the Dube TradePort in Durban and the North West Department of Transport.

On May 24 2018, the South African Civil Aviation Authority suspended SA Express' air operator certificate as well as its Certificates of Airworthiness for nine of the twenty-one aircraft in its fleet after it uncovered severe cases of non-compliance that posed safety risks. The aircrafts were later cleared to fly.

The airline had been hit by financial instability which prompted government intervention, leading to the appointment of Siza Mzimela, in August as acting CEO.

'Luthuli House mandate'

On Wednesday, the commission heard from SA Express security head Timothy Ngwenya about how he had allegedly been offered a bribe in August 2016 to stop an investigation into the business affairs of the group's former commercial manager Brian van Wyk.

Ngwenya told the commission he met an anonymous man at an airport - who alleged to have a mandate from Luthuli House - who told him to stop the probe as the "money was being used to finance ANC political campaigns".

"My response to him was that SA Express was paying me adequately, therefore I need not take any money from anyone. He tried to persuade me and I told him straight that I wasn't really interested," he told the commission.

He told the commission he did not know who the man was.

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