The opposition Democratic Alliance party (DA) says it welcomes Auditor General Terrance Nombembe confirmation that an investigation will be conducted into expenditure on the so-called “shadow planes” used during President Jacob Zuma’s recent visit to the United States.
President Jacob Zuma’s Boeing Business Jet (“Inkwazi”) was “shadowed” by two backup aircraft including a South African Airways Airbus A340 and a Bombadier Global Express XRS. The SAA Airbus A340 (200) is a long range, four engined, wide body jet aircraft designed to carry more than 250 passengers. The Bombadier Global Express XRS is an ultra-long range executive jet air aircraft designed to seat up to 19 passengers.
“The justification for the use of backup aircraft to “shadow” President Jacob Zuma’s Boeing Business Jet has never been properly explained,” Maynier says. “We do not have all the facts but operating the three aircraft may have required up to 16 pilots, two flight engineers and 16 cabin crew and cost more than R10 million. It was also reported that the use of the ‘shadow planes’ was not authorized, presumably by the Chief of the South African Air Force, General Carlo Gagiano, and the Secretary of Defence, Sam Galube.
“Expenditure on the ‘shadow planes’ may therefore have been unauthorised, irregular or wasteful expenditure,” Maynier says in a statement. “I therefore wrote to the Auditor General, Terrance Nombembe, on January 30, requesting an investigation into expenditure on the ‘shadow planes’. I have now received a response from the Office of the Auditor-General confirming that an investigation will be conducted into expenditure on the ‘shadow planes’ used by President Jacob Zuma.
In a letter dated February 2 the Office of the Auditor-General states the following: “The relevant process will be audited as part of the Supply Chain Management audit, evaluated for compliance with applicable Treasury Regulations and Practice Notes, and reported on to Parliament if required.”
Last month Gagiano said the military had a responsibility to uphold SA’s prestige by transporting the President safely and on time to international engagements. “(VIP transport) is extremely complex and important to the international image of the country… Who will make the (UN) speech if the President can’t make it?” he asked. Gagiano also cautioned reporters against suggesting the Air Force’s planes were unsafe. “My passengers are now nervous because they read in the papers how unsafe our planes are… They stress because they think, ‘when is this aircraft going to fall apart?'”