The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has previously approached Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to intervene after Eskom launched an investigation against its general manager of special projects, Mark Chettiar. Chettiar reported allegations of corruption at Eskom to Corruption Watch and he has allegedly been victimised within the company.
SAFTU said Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer had pressed for the payment of R42m to Aveng by Eskom, despite the latter not fulfilling its contractual obligations. SAFTU called for the Chief Operating Officer (“COO”) Jan Oberholzer to be placed on immediate suspension and subjected to disciplinary action led by an independent person appointed through a transparent process.
SAFTU notes that the COO Jan Oberholzer was subjected to a similar internal disciplinary process (As being proposed for the CEO) while the COO was still present at Eskom and not under suspension. The COO was cleared of all charges relating to corruption, dishonesty, conflict of interest and abuse of power by an INTERNAL investigation using an external advocate from Eskom’s own pool of advocates. The findings of the investigation have not been made public nor subjected to any external scrutiny allowing for complete control over the disciplinary process to be managed by the Board and to some extent influenced by the COO himself who was not suspended during the time.
SAFTU is of the view that a similar process is being undertaken by the same Eskom Board to “whitewash” claims of racism against the CEO, Andre De Ruyter, using an internal scope and an advocate from Eskom’s pool of suppliers to achieve a pre-determined outcome. Had adequate Corporate Governance been followed the CEO would have been suspended immediately and a neutral, objective external party appointed to investigate these very serious matters of racism and procurement.
It is apparent that the ESKOM Board does not seek to resolve the serious issues with both the CEO and COO but rather to absolve themselves because the Board appointed both the CEO and the COO. This ignorance of independence and objectivity in investigating these serious allegations may lead us to the conclusion that the Board is complicit in covering up the allegations and “managing” the investigation process internally while the implicated individuals still have influence over the investigation.
Lastly SAFTU is of the view that the suspended Chief Procurement Officer (“CPO”) Solomon Tshitangano may be suffering the same fate as Mark Chettiar as a whistleblower and implores the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (“SCOPA”) to ensure that the CPO has adequate legal representation by suitable counsel at the SCOPA hearings to ensure that all facts and evidence are presented rather than another “whitewashed” view of the serious allegations at ESKOM relating to racism and procurement.