Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) has given Eskom 90 days to complete its investigation into allegations of racism and abuse of power levelled against its CEO, Andre de Ruyter.
The public finance watchdog will thereafter request that the Eskom board report on its findings to the committee.
Eskom earlier this month said that it had appointed Advocate Ishmael Semenya to lead the investigation, adding that Semenya would be given “space to conduct the investigation unhindered.”
On Wednesday, Scopa decided to call off its own investigations into allegations of impropriety against De Ruyter as well as allegations of irregularities related to procurement and contract management at the state-owned entity.
Request from minister
Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa said Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan sent a letter to the committee requesting that it suspend its inquiry into the power utility because Eskom had launched a similar inquiry.
Although the committee agreed to halt its inquiry into Eskom and De Ruyter to avoid a duplication of effort, committee members slammed Eskom for instituting its inquiry into De Ruyter shortly after Scopa had announced that it would launch an investigation into the CEO.
“I can only hope that this is not a malicious compliance by Eskom and that the work will be done thoroughly and that it will not resemble the investigation into the COO which took 11 days and came out with a conclusion that is less than desired,” said Hlengwa.
The inquiry follows accusations made by suspended Eskom chief procurement officer (CPO) Solly Tshitangano that De Ruyter spearheaded irregularities related to recruitment, performance management, procurement and governance processes at Eskom.
Tshitangano’s letter to Scopa further alleges that the Eskom board was made aware of the alleged impropriety by De Ruyter as far back as February last year.
Scopa had also planned to investigate applications made to National Treasury by Eskom to be permitted to deviate from the standard procurement process in the first two quarters of 2020.
The deviations, the majority of which were for the renegotiation of coal supply, resulted in the beleaguered power utility losing R20 billion in revenue.
Hlengwa accused Eskom of “jumping the gun” by pre-empting the Scopa investigation and launching an investigation of its own. He said Eskom knew of the allegations levelled against its CEO for 14 months yet did not launch any investigations into “issues which require attention”.
“It is completely unacceptable for government departments and entities to sit on a matter.”
He added that as one of the country’s critical state-owned entities, it is undesirable for the CEO and CPO of Eskom to be fighting as this has material consequences on the operations of the entity.
“The bottom line is that all is not well at the moment and the problems are huge,” he said.
“We had rolling load shedding since 2008, Medupi and Kusile are still not complete, there’s issues with coal supply, there’s issues with contract management – and instead of the situation improving it keeps worsening.”