SAA meeting postponed after spat over confidentiality

2018-05-16 16:37

The standing committee on finance has postponed its meeting to review South African Airways’ fourth quarter results due to lack of agreement on whether the session should be held in committee or in public.

An application was made by the chairperson of the standing committee on finance to have some of the presentations by SAA held in private in order to protect the confidentiality of some of SAA’s strategies.

But the Democratic Alliance’s Alf Lees expressed his concern over the application to have a closed meeting.

“This is deeply concerning, not only because members of the public will apparently be barred from attending, but because a R5-billion secret bailout for SAA might have already taken place, which National Treasury is yet to give clarity to Parliament on,” he said on Tuesday.

The finance ministry on Wednesday said that SAA was a commercial enterprise that operated in a highly competitive environment and there had to be a degree of protection of the confidentiality of SAA’s commercial strategies.

In February, SAA had presented its turnaround strategy to the standing committee on finance which was accepted and supported.

The same strategy was presented to the standing committee on appropriations in March 2018.

On Wednesday, SAA was due to present its fourth quarter report as part of the normal parliamentary report cycle.

SAA report to the standing committee on finance by CityPress on Scribd

“It would appear that there was a disagreement among committee members as to whether there was a committee resolution to have some of SAA’s meetings held in committee only,” Treasury spokesperson Zwikhodo Singo said.

“The committee then postponed the presentation by SAA in order to consult its own records regarding the decision. After a comprehensive review of this issue, and having taken into account the need to protect SAA’s commercially sensitive strategies while staying within the governance prescripts, we have decided to make SAA’s fourth quarter presentation available to the public.”

Singo believed there was a need to protect SAA’s commercial strategies and said that Treasury was encouraged by the committee’s intention to conduct some of the reviews of SAA reports in private. “Holding some of the reviews in committee will allow Members of Parliament to have an in-depth engagement with SAA’s leadership while protecting SAA’s commercial strategies.”

Meanwhile, Lees called the move to have the meeting behind closed doors a “clandestine” manoeuvre to shield SAA from accountability and public scrutiny.

He said it raised serious questions about the motive behind National Treasury and SAA’s secretive actions, purportedly for a secret bailout.

“Taxpayers need to know the reasons behind this secrecy.”

Meanwhile, the DA is due to unpack the party’s plan to rescue the country’s failing state-owned entities on Thursday.

“In the past financial year, Prasa, SAA, SABC, PetroSA and Sanral made a combined loss of R14.4 billion and the overall, loss-making state-owned entities totalled R53.7 billion for the 2016/17 financial year,” said the party’s spokesperson, Portia Adams.

“Failing state-owned entities have serious consequences for the economy due to dwindling investor confidence and credit ratings agencies have flagged them as a massive risk. Worse, service delivery to South Africans – especially the poor and vulnerable – is taking a serious knock as continued bailouts are bleeding the public coffers dry.”

She said the DA had a “sound” plan to rescue them “so that public funds can be freed up to deliver services to our people”.

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May 19 2019