SAA rush to appoint new top job questioned

Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance said on Sunday it is somewhat taken aback by an advert by South African Airways (SAA) which appeared on Sunday and requests applicants for the position of chief commercial officer (CCO).

"This advert has been placed despite SAA having paid out millions of rand to a very competent and skilled Sylvain Bosc, the previous CCO, to sit idly at home for about 20 months on full pay of a salary of R260 000 per month and an estimated R5.2m for the period that he was on suspension," Alf Lees, DA shadow deputy minister of finance, told Fin24 on Sunday.

Bosc joined African low cost airline fastjet as CCO in April this year. There he joined Nico Bezuidenhout, former CEO of SAA's low cost subsidiary Mango and twice acting CEO of SAA.

Lees pointed out that it seems only eight calendar days have been allowed for applications to be submitted.   

"Despite the crisis at SAA and the need to employ the best possible person for the job...This very short window for the submission of applications seems to indicate that SAA is not serious about finding the best possible person, but suggests that SAA has already identified a preferred candidate and is simply carrying out a tick-box exercise as a smokescreen of following proper procedures," said Lees.

If SAA were serious about finding the most suitable candidate for the job they would give more time, in his view.

In the advert SAA says it transports seven million passengers and more than 100 000 tonnes of cargo every year.

Strategic direction

The CCO must provide strategic direction and leadership to ensure effective delivery of all passenger and ancillary revenue while also overseeing all sales and marketing, pricing and revenue management, fleet and network planning, scheduling, frequent flyer programmes and Star Alliance partnership relations.

According to the advert, the CCO must have, among other requirements, 10 to 15 years' experience in a commercial role in a major network airline or low cost carrier.

The key accountabilities of the CCO include branding of SAA, maximising revenue opportunities and continuously developing existing revenue streams and new sources of ancillary income.

The CCO must also "manage costs ruthlessly".

Sylvain Bosc

"It must be assumed that SAA is also using the services of international employment agents involved with the international airline industry," said Lees.

"Despite being found not guilty of any misconduct in July 2016, Mr Bosc was prevented from returning to work at SAA and was thus prevented from making a valuable contribution to stemming the massive losses of some R9bn that SAA has incurred over the past two years."

According to Lees, SAA chair Dudu Myeni allegedly used her influence to "block" Bosc from returning to his duties at SAA.

In the past Bosc told Fin24 that SA is a long haul destination, far from the biggest source markets, and SAA has to compete in the very competitive airline industry.

"It would seem that the new board, that has no members with commercial aviation experience on it, appointed in September 2017 ignored the National Treasury condition attached to the R4.7bn bailout given to SAA in September 2016 that required that the suspension of all SAA employees who were on suspension be reviewed.

"In Bosc’s case, apparently no review was done despite the desperate need of SAA for his skills and experience," said Lees.

"Now that Bosc’s contract with SAA has apparently come to an end, the new board seems to be rushing to find a replacement CCO even though they were content to disregard the skills and experience of Bosc that were at their disposal and to let SAA flounder.

"This ultimately contributed to forcing Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba to take the extremely unusual step of invoking the emergency section 16 of the Public Finance and Management Act to pay R2.207bn to SAA to meet a small portion of its debt obligations."

The DA intends to ask Gigaba to provide full details of the process followed to appoint a new CCO for SAA.

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