OR Tambo Airport uncovers internal 'illegal commissions' scam

2017-04-22 12:33 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - The travel industry is competitive, but Acsa's largest international airport in South Africa has made it clear illegal dealings from employees and businesses contracted to the airport will not be tolerated.

OR Tambo International Airport announced in a statement on Saturday, 22 April that an investigation lasting several weeks has concluded with 35 of 56 information desk staff employed by the airport having been suspended.

Disciplinary procedures are pending following allegations against the 35 employees for illegal commissions paid by certain hospitality providers to secure referrals.

'Hospitality providers paying illegal commissions' 

Acsa says replacements have already been assigned to it essential passenger-facing operations. 

"The investigation is continuing and further suspensions and disciplinary procedures are possible. Management of the airport has notified the South African Police Services of this matter based on the outcome of its internal investigation," Bongiwe Pityi, General Manager of OR Tambo International Airport says.

Pityi has not revealed who the alleged hospitality providers are. However, the employees directly involved of companies contracted to the airport can lead to those companies paying penalties or losing their contracts. In addition, employees of airport contractors who engage in misconduct or illegal activity also face disciplinary procedures or prosecution. She urged airport users who encounter misconduct or illegal activity to report it to the airport and the SAPS.

“More than 35 000 people work for various companies at the airport in some capacity. Of these, only 1 200 are directly employed by Airports Company South Africa. Given the seriousness of the matter, this remains an ongoing priority at the airport," says Pityi. 

“To this end, we are continually on the alert for staff who may be engaged in any illegal activities. I would like to urge airport users not to offer or pay bribes and to report suspicious activity. People should also be aware that the law provides for prosecution not only of those soliciting bribes, but also of those who offer them or pay them."

“It is extremely disappointing when issues of this nature are brought to the airport’s attention. However, when such activities take place we are compelled to act, as we do take a hard line where we encounter our own employees delivering poor service or engaging in corrupt activity," says Pityi.

Report suspicious activity

Pityi said that misconduct by employees of companies directly contracted to the airport can lead to those companies paying penalties or losing their contracts. In addition, employees of airport contractors who engage in misconduct or illegal activity also face disciplinary procedures or prosecution. She urged airport users who encounter misconduct or illegal activity to report it to the airport and the SAPS. 

"We would like to encourage members of the public to make use of the toll-free number where they can provide information anonymously. For any other general queries and compliments they can contact our customer care services,” said Pityi.

TBCSA Tourism Safety Initiative proactive in Gauteng

Traveller24 spoke to Tourism Business Council's GM for Policy Analysis and Strategic Projects Tebogo Umanah, who says the council is actively engaging with detectives in the Gauteng province, especially concerning OR Tambo international which has previously been targeted by sophisticated heists involving millions to petty crimes of bribes and robberies taking place in its airport parking facilities.

SEE: OR Tambo heightens security as multi-million rand robbery details emerge

OR Tambo International Airport is the premier gateway to South Africa and the largest air hub on the continent. On 09 March security measures around the airport were heightened following an armed robbery in which "a bakkie with what appeared to be police markings" managed to breach restricted gate access at the airport and steal cargo to the value of an estimated R24m.

Umanah's portfolio includes project management for the Tourism Business Index and the Tourism Safety Initiative, concerning illegal activities within the Tourism Sector and what business can do to report as well as tighten measures around the issue.

"We thought we should try to focus our effort here as an attempt to erase that problem before it gets bigger and we have specifically partnered with detectives focusing on this area," says Umanah. 

According to Umanah, not many are aware of the TBCSA's Tourism Safety Initiative (TSI) which offers its members a "safe and secure portal" to report as well as to active investigations around any criminal networks and activities they suspect their employees or guests might be involved in.  

Umanah says the council works together with the police and individuals who are able to remain anonymous but still ensure the issue of criminal activity is swiftly addressed. 

SEE: Holidaymakers' R4bn February spend points to strong SA tourism growth

"Most of our members are not aware of this TSI benefit of the TBCSA and while the report rate is low, we are looking to work with various tourism authorities as well as government entities in different provinces to ensure that they are able to use this reporting system." 

TSI is not just available to businesses though says Umanah and encouraged all in the hospitality to crack down on this issue that could potentially jeopardise South Africa's lucrative Tourism Industry, which has seen a R6.5 billion influx in SA's economy from December 2016 to February 2017 for accommodation alone.

While Umanah was not able to detail individual cases or businesses due to confidentiality, she states incidents range from fraud to drug or human trafficking.   

IMPORTANT CONTACTS FOR MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC: (toll-free & anonymous)

The ACSA Hotline:  0800 00 8080

The ACSA Hotline Email: acsa@thehotline.co.za

ACSA Customer Care Services: Customercare@airports.co.za

TBCSA TSI portal: Click here to report a crime

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