Moneyweb has learnt the suspicious amounts that flowed through a bank account linked to a key Eskom official since 2015 might be as much as R60 million.
This follows allegations that Tubular Construction Projects (TCP), a contractor at Eskom’s Kusile project in Mpumalanga has paid R20 million in bribes into the bank account of Hlakudi Translation and Interpretation CC. France Hlakudi, Eskom’s contract manager at Kusile and its sister project Medupi, is the only member of the CC.
Hlakudi allegedly colluded with leaders at Tubular to by-pass international power group Alstom and its sub-contractor SXP and have Eskom deal directly with Tubular in a R708 million Kusile contract that has since grown to R1.2 billion.
Both Eskom and the police are currently investigating the matter. Moneyweb has been told that the docket has been sent to the National Prosecuting Authority and arrests are imminent.
Hlakudi earlier denied the allegations. He would not respond in detail in light of the on-going investigations. Mike Lomas and Tony Trindade, implicated leaders at Tubular did not respond to Moneyweb’s earlier requests for comment.
Moneyweb has seen information that indicates that about 20 payments totalling R20 million have been made into the account of Hlakudi Translation and Interpretation from Tubular and its subsidiary Abeyla Trading since January 2015, the largest being two payments of R3.9 million each.
Payments from Tubular and other entities over the period totalled R60 million, of which R14 million was withdrawn in cash.
On September 1 2015, R900 000 cash was withdrawn and the same amount on November 9 2015. On May 20 2016 the cash withdrawal amounted to R3 million. The largest cash withdrawal over the period was on December 2 2016, when R4.3 million was withdrawn.
At least three other entities with apparent links to the construction industry made payments of varying amounts into the account over the period.
Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe on Thursday confirmed that Hlakudi as well as his boss Abram Masango were facing suspension in relation to the allegations of bribery and contract manipulation at Kusile.
Eskom received a progress report from the investigators on October 3 that seriously implicated Hlakudi in the bribery and manipulation of contracts at Kusile. It has taken more than a month for Eskom to take action against him. This only happened after the allegations were published by Moneyweb and other media. Unless he is suspended, he will remain in a position where he can continue to influence multimillion-rand contracts at Medupi and Kusile.
Phasiwe said Masango, who was group executive: group capital when the events occurred, has been served with a letter requesting him to provide reasons why he shouldn’t be suspended. Group Capital is the division responsible for Eskom’s new-build projects.
A similar process is underway regarding Hlakudi, he said.
Phasiwe said Frans Sithole, who was project manager at Kusile at the time but has since resigned, will also be called for any proceedings dealing with the alleged bribery and contract manipulation at Kusile.
Both Masango and Sithole are accused in the progress report of protecting Hlakudi, but little substantial evidence is provided.
Suspended Eskom interim group chief executive Matshela Koko gave an instruction on February 1 to have Hlakudi removed from Kusile and recalled Masango in March to work in his office. He then appointed Prish Govender as acting group executive for group capital. Govender has since been suspended over alleged unlawful payments to Gupta-linked Trillian and Peter Sebola is now acting in the position.
One of the six charges against Koko relates to his alleged unprocedural removal of Hlakudi and another worker at Kusile. He is expected to testify about the matter when his disciplinary hearing resumes later this month.
In the meantime, Koko has been named by suspended Eskom legal head Suzanne Daniels in parliament as one of the culprits in the unlawful payment of hundreds of millions of rand to Gupta-linked consultancy Trillian, but none of Eskom’s charges against him relate to the matter.
Koko’s disciplinary hearing is widely seen as a farce and Eskom has been accused of driving the process half-heartedly to allow Koko to be found not guilty and to return to work.