Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter, along with ‘any person that may be of assistance’, will feature in an internal inquiry into allegations of racism levelled against him.
This follows parliament’s public finance watchdog, the Standing Committee On Public Accounts (Scopa), earlier this month announcing its intention to launch a probe into impropriety by De Ruyter.
Eskom had previously dismissed the allegations, saying in a statement the allegations and “unwarranted attacks on Eskom’s management team” could distract the power utility’s management from restoring Eskom to financial stability and operational effectiveness.
On Tuesday however Eskom announced that it would be probing the allegations of racism “in order to establish the veracity and the basis to the allegation”.
The inquiry will be chaired by an independent senior counsel who will be given the powers to “interview any person that may be of assistance in the probe, and consider any evidence, and will then report back to the board and make recommendations”.
Various allegations made
The allegations stem from various correspondences sent to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, the department’s director-general Kgathatso Tlhakudi and Eskom board interim chair Professor Malegapuru Makgoba between January and March.
In the various letters, suspended Eskom chief procurement officer Solly Tshitangano accuses De Ruyter of spearheading irregularities related to recruitment, performance management, procurement and governance processes at Eskom.
In a letter to Gordhan dated January 22, Tshitangano accuses De Ruyter and Eskom’s head of legal and compliance Nerina Otto of undermining “good corporate governance under the pretence that they want to protect the interests of Eskom”.
De Ruyter accused of acting as accounting officer
Tshitangano, who was placed on precautionary suspension in February for poor performance, sent a follow-up letter to Tlhakudi and Scopa at the beginning of March accusing De Ruyter of acting as the power utility’s accounting officer and group chief executive simultaneously.
“There is no way that Eskom will maintain an effective, efficient, and transparent systems of financial and risk management and internal control if Andre de Ruyter can assign powers and duties to himself,” Tshitangano says.
De Ruyter was appointed as the power utility’s chief executive in November 2019. Tshitangano’s letter to Scopa alleges that the Eskom board was made aware of the alleged impropriety by De Ruyter as far back as February 2020.
Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha told Moneyweb on Tuesday that when Makgoba received a letter from Gordhan last year requesting him to intervene in the matter, Makgoba “spoke” to all concerned and was under the impression that the matter has been resolved.
“A year later it turns out it had not been resolved, if Tshitangano’s letter is anything to go by,” said Mantshantsha. “That’s why the board has decided to do the investigation, and give everyone the opportunity to bring the matter to a close.”
Although not mentioned in Eskom’s statement on Tuesday, Mantshantsha said the charge of racism against De Ruyter includes allegations of irregular recruitment, procurement and governance practices at Eskom.