South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised investigators to probe allegations of maladministration, corruption or unlawful conduct at South African Airways dating back to at least 2002.

Ramaphosa’s order to refer the allegations to a special investigation unit has been disclosed in a declaration in the official government gazette.

The declaration states that the airline or the South African state may have suffered losses, as a result of alleged practices, which could be recovered.

No specific allegations are detailed in the document.

Procurement and contracting of Airbus aircraft, as well as maintenance, are among the matters being referred to the investigation unit, the presidential declaration states. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Airbus.

The in-depth authorisation covers the sourcing of services to support the implementation of the loss-making airline’s turnaround plan, and the scrutiny of any payments which were “not fair, competitive, transparent, equitable or cost-effective”.

Ramaphosa’s declaration – dated 20 December 2019, but published in the gazette on 31 January – also points to potential concerns of maladministration relating to travel rebate benefits, payments by the carrier to vendors, and other areas.

South African Airways has been operating under business rescue while practitioners develop a business plan intended to assist the crippled airline’s recovery.