'Honestly, I am just fed up': Scopa chair on SAA business rescue practitioners' no-show

16 March 2021 - 13:09
SAA business rescue practitioners were a no-show in parliament on Tuesday. Stock photo.
SAA business rescue practitioners were a no-show in parliament on Tuesday. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/RICHARD VAN DER SPUY

“Honestly, I am just fed up!”

Those were the words of Mkhuleko Hlengwa, the chairperson of parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in reaction to a no-show by SAA business rescue practitioners on Tuesday.

The rescue practitioners were scheduled to appear before the committee to give a report on progress made with the ailing airline. But they sent a letter late on Monday to Hlengwa indicating that one of them had a bereavement and they would not be able to attend the meeting.

Hlengwa had earlier explained to the meeting that he had told the pair that one of them should attend nonetheless, to hear the way forward from the committee.

But when the meeting commenced, it became apparent that both of the rescue practitioners were not present. The name of the bereaved was communicated by Hlengwa during the meeting.

“I did point out to the business rescue practitioners yesterday that there is not one business rescue practitioner, there are two. And that it is not without precedent that we have met with one business rescue practitioner before,” said Hlengwa.

He said the committee was just trying to do its work and that late requests for postponement from government entities would soon be unacceptable.

“I would at the very least expected SAA to have sent a representative here, after having indicated to them that we would proceed, so that they could hear what the committee's determination would be on the matters that they raised.

“And so their absence, or the absence of a representative, circumstances notwithstanding, is totally unacceptable. Totally unacceptable,” said Hlengwa.

Hlengwa said the business rescue practitioners needed to change their attitude towards the committee as their co-operation had in the past not been satisfactory. He said as long as they were business rescue practitioners, they had to account to parliament because of the public funds spent on SAA.

His anger was shared by two DA MPs, Benedicta van Minen and Alf Lees.

“Exactly why have we not received the report that is required? This matter is not your petty cash; this is major, major money of the state being spent on an entity that many of us believe it should not be spent on. And yet we are not getting the accountability,” said Lees.

The fact that they are now taking the opportunity to essentially be Awol from this committee, which is here to hold them to account, is completely disgraceful.
DA MP Benedicta van Minen

He said they repeatedly heard about potential private partners but there was no finalisation on the matter.

Lees said there was no way the matter could be put off until the next term of parliament. Parliament is going on recess from this Friday.

Van Minen said she was displeased with the behaviour of SAA.

“I think that they are now completely flouting any and all attempts to [hold] them to account. The fact that they are all, despite your letter, now taking the opportunity to essentially be Awol from this committee of parliament which is here to hold them to account, is completely disgraceful,” said Van Minen.

But ANC MPs, who are the majority in the committee, came to the defence of the rescue practitioners, appealing for the committee to show sensitivity for the bereavement.

Those who called for sensitivity included Bheki Hadebe, Beauty Zibula and Sakhumzi Somyo.

The committee has since resolved to reschedule the meeting to next week.

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