Johannesburg - The SA Air Force (SAAF) is using an auditor general (AG) report on its contract with Denel Aviation as a smokescreen to end the contract, trade union Solidarity said on Thursday.
"The SAAF is... hiding behind a report by the AG and is concealing the true reason for the termination of the contract," spokesman Jack Loggenberg said.
"If the SAAF's decision to end the contract was based solely on the AG's report, they would not have negotiated about possible solutions further."
The defence department said on Wednesday the contract was terminated because the AG had declared it irregular.
"[Media] reports, without exception, fail to appreciate the correctness of the SAAF's termination of a contract, which was declared irregular by the AG," said defence spokesman Lt-Col Ronald Maseko.
"The contract dates back to a period (1986) where the current governance regime did not exist."
Maseko said the AG found the contract did not comply with the Public Finance Management Act and National Treasury regulations.
Loggenberg said it was "highly unlikely" that the AG had suggested ending the contract."The AG probably rather suggested that the contract be revised to comply with the relevant legislation and regulations," he said.
Denel Personnel Solutions (DPS) said on January 15 that as a result of the termination, 523 Denel aircraft specialists would be retrenched.
Loggenberg said at the time there was a possibility the SAAF would attempt to recruit some of the employees individually afterwards.
"The Air Force probably wants to end the Denel contract because it is very expensive," he said.
"If the Air Force were to take over some of the contracts of employment [before the retrenchments], a section 197 would have to be issued."
According to section 197 of the Labour Relations Act, employees' conditions of service and remuneration must be kept on the same level when their contracts of employment are transferred to another company.
"It is therefore our suspicion that the Air Force, in order to save money, will wait until all the employees have been retrenched before possibly appointing some of them, on a lower salary, to do the same work," Loggenberg said.
Solidarity represents 227 specialists out of the 523.