LIFE is really good during the global recession — at least if you’re a top official in Armscor.
Life is so good that your employer pays for your five-star hotel rooms at R3 500 a day, booked (and paid for) a full day in advance just so that you don’t have to queue when you arrive at the hotel the next morning.
This was the service enjoyed by 10 of Armscor’s top officials, including non-executive board members, in September when they flew to England (business class) to represent Armscor at an arms exhibition.
The exhibition was held between September 13 and 16, but the officials’ rooms in five-star hotels were booked and paid for from September 11 to 17, two days longer than the duration of the show.
Documents in Beeld’s possession show that the officials also had use of Carey, an exclusive European limousine and chauffeuring service, at their disposal.
The bill for Carey’s services totalled R43 000, including a penalty levy of R6 000 because the rented limousine waited three times for officials who were late. On two occasions the limousine waited 45 minutes before the Armscor people arrived.
Armscor, the state’s armaments company, is dependent on arms sales to make a living. However, the company is having it tough. In its last financial it received a government bail-out of R594,8 million to balance the books.
In the past three years Armscor’s financial assistance from the government totalled R1,6 billion.
Acting Armscor CEO Sipho Mkwanazi said in the group’s financial statements that the group was under substantial financial pressure with regard to its ability to obtain sustainable financing.
Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier said it was “simply wrong” that Armscor officials, including board members, flew all over the world like “Fortune 500 fat cats” on taxpayers’ money.
He said it was difficult to obtain information about Armscor’s trips abroad. “I suspect the latest events are just the tip of the iceberg. The company appears to be trying to cover up information.”
Maynier said neither Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu nor Mkwanazi had responded to inquiries about the matter raised during committee meetings earlier this year.
“Armscor appears to think it is a power of its own that is not accountable to Parliament.”
Armscor spokesperson Daphney Chuma, who was approached for comment last week, said yesterday: “Armscor has to do marketing in order to support the South African defence industry. The [marketing] leads to job creation and helps to develop the defence sector. All trips by Armscor support this mandate.”
Chuma said that, like the directors of any company in the private sector, the Armscor board also provided leadership in the course of giving effect to Armscor’s marketing mandate.
“That includes the development of partnerships with other countries and companies involved in the defence industry.”