The North West department of community safety and transport paid SA Express exorbitant rates to operate the province’s Mafikeng and Pilanesberg airports, when compared with industry standards.
The 2015 deal, which is riddled with allegations of corruption and procurement irregularities, came under the spotlight again at the inquiry into state capture on Thursday when the airline’s commercial manager, Arson Phiri, took the stand.
Phiri, who has worked in South Africa’s aviation industry for 15 years and joined SA Express (SAX) in 2018, was asked to do a comparative analysis between an above-board deal between SAX and Dube Tradeport in Durban and the controversial arrangement struck between the airline and the North West government.
He concluded that the amounts paid by the North West government to SAX were “excessive” and “overstated”.
The agreement was allegedly envisaged to move up to R400m out of the North West government account and into SA Express. The commission believes R97m of that amount was siphoned off to various entities through a “detailed scheme of money-laundering”.
The North West’s agreement with SAX was signed off by the airline’s executives, Brian van Wyk and Inati Ntshanga.
The contract for the operation of both airports, Mafikeng and Pilanesberg, was set down for five years, starting in March 2015.
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