TEXAS – During the past seven or eight weeks, my name and a memo I wrote two years ago have been bandied about in the media as being anything from prophetic to preposterous. It seems to me that the time has come for me to attempt to set the record straight.
First, I was not fired by Jacob Maroga; he and I had never even been introduced before we met in his office in July of 2007 to discuss the content of the July 19 memo. However, by the end of that meeting, Mr. Maroga asked whether I would be willing to advise him directly with regard to Primary Energy’s activities. I agreed.
Second, the former general manager of Eskom’s Primary Energy department and I had agreed in early April to begin winding up the balance of my 18 month consulting services contract. I had initiated the winding up as the result of being increasingly and effectively prohibited from fulfilling the terms of that agreement and advised the former GM that as such, it was a waste of my time and Eskom’s money for me to remain. However, in the middle of those negotiations and without notice, this GM terminated negotiations as well as the balance of the consulting services agreement.
Third, two weeks after our meeting, Mr. Maroga advised me that he would be unable to engage my services to advise him directly but thanked me for considering it.
So why did I write the memo? I believed and still believe I had an obligation to deliver a report of my findings and professional opinion; the meeting was arranged in order to make that delivery.
So what happened? Looking back, I imagine that when Mr. Maroga approached the senior staff of Primary Energy with the memo I had written, they assured him that it was incorrect and in any event, fixes to the problems were already in progress. Also, as Mr. Maroga had only been on the job a couple of months, new CEOs are inclined to trust their senior staff and I imagine he did just that.
From nearly the day I arrived at MegaWatt Park, I was recommending radical changes to Primary Energy. I had even recommended restructuring Primary Energy into an independent fuel services division that would make its procurement practices transparent as well as being incumbent upon sound research and market knowledge to meet or beat annual price projections. Its funding would come solely from any margin it was able to earn between projected and actual prices monitored, of course, by relevant and independent executive staff.
I have no idea as to what has happened to or in Primary Energy during these past two years but from reports in the media, it appears as though not much has changed. Of course, all clients have the right to reject the advice of consultants. Am I disappointed – of course. But perhaps more than anything, I am saddened by the time and opportunities that Primary Energy has apparently chosen to lose.
*Susan Olsen is the US consultant whose warning memo in 2007 was studiously ignored by Eskom.