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By Gosebo Mathope


Civil Aviation Authority to investigate ACSA security contract

Checkport SA's general manager says the 'facts are incorrect' and referred all queries to ACSA, which denied all allegations.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched an investigation into allegations that the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) awarded an airport security tender to a non-compliant service provider.

CAA communications manager Kabelo Ledwaba said the aviation authority was currently gathering facts around the matter and would only issue a full statement at a later stage.

“CAA is aware of the current changes taking place at ACSA airports. We are looking into the allegations brought to our attention. We are treating this matter as urgent and would like to be given an opportunity to conclude our engagements with the operator before pronouncing on our findings. Our priority is to ensure continued aviation security standards at the airport in line with our legislative mandate,” said Ledwaba.

This follows allegations made by the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) that ACSA unlawfully awarded the contract to Checkport SA, “a foreign-owned company that has no requisite expertise”.

“ACSA has awarded a five-year tender to provide airside and restricted areas security services at OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) to Checkport SA, which is part of multinational Swissport International,” said media officer Zanele Sabela.

Satawu is also claiming that “Checkport SA was not one of the companies initially vetted to bid for the contract”. It stated that in 2016, ACSA ran a pre-tender process during which interested companies were invited to apply for certification so they could bid for security services at ORTIA.

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Satawu believes that six companies, including the incumbent service providers Fidelity and Reshebile Aviation and Protection Services, were successful and certified to bid but Checkport SA was not one of them.

“SATAWU is also astounded the company was declared the successful bidder despite its 100% foreign-owned status. As a majority state-owned entity ACSA is meant to promote government’s imperative of broad-based black economic empowerment and job creation,” said Sabela.

Other red flags include allegations that despite the contract requesting specialised skills, “most CAA certified screeners declined offers of employment from Checkport SA because of the low remuneration it offers”.

“Now Checkport SA is operating with mostly new, inexperienced staff putting national security at risk given ORTIA is a national key point,” Satawu alleged.

The trade union urged the minister of transport, Blade Nzimande, “to probe how Checkport SA came to be awarded the contract given it did not participate in the second stage of the tendering process and it does not have the level of skill required to secure a critical national key point such as ORTIA”.

In a response to The Citizen, ACSA denied all accusations and said the awarding of the tender had been above board. They dismissed concerns around the supposed security risks at a national key point.

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“Checkport SA is not a 100% foreign-owned company and has been providing security services for various stakeholders at the airport for the last five years. They comply with legislative aviation security requirements and have the relevant expertise. They were one of the nine licensed security companies that were awarded to provide security services to Airports Company South Africa and its stakeholders,” said spokesperson Hulisani Rasivhaga.

Not directly responding to whether the company was part of the six companies, ACSA said National Treasury was nevertheless aware of the company as their service provider.

“Checkport SA is registered on the National Treasury Central Supplier Database, as this is a mandatory requirement, and their appointment was done in accordance with the Airports Company South Africa’s supply chain management process and the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act,” explained Rasivhaga.

On whether SACAA-certified screeners declined offers of employment, Rasivhanga said their service providers are “fully” cognisant of this requirement and emphasised security training was regulated and accredited by SACAA.

Basie Broekman, the general manager for Checkport SA, wrote: “We have forwarded your mail to an ACSA official and we cannot commit on their behalf. We can only respond by informing you that the article has a lot of false facts.”

When it was pointed out ACSA was sent a different set of questions and it would be unethical for them to respond to media queries meant for service providers, Broekman responded: “Your deadline is yours and not mine. I am a busy man and on my way to meetings for the rest of the day. Please note that Airports company will respond and as said I don’t know when they will. As said, your facts are incorrect.”

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