EOH CEO Stephen Van Coller said being open and transparent about bribery and corruption at his company is the right thing to do to save the company and protect its employees.
Over the past week, Van Coller and ENSafrica’s forensics department MD, Steven Powell provided explosive evidence at the Zondo Commission about corruption at EOH.
Van Coller provided details about various corrupt dealings at EOH, including Microsoft and SAP licensing deals with the Department of Defence and the Department of Water Affairs.
Van Coller said EOH was guilty of over-invoicing and the under-delivery of software licenses.
The EOH CEO also provided evidence of tender irregularities that were linked to inappropriate gifting, sponsorships, and donations.
Most of these irregular payments were linked to high-profile ANC politicians, including state security deputy minister Zizi Kodwa and City of Joburg mayor Geoff Makhubo.
Powell said what they have uncovered is a pattern of regular solicitation of donations to the ANC coupled with the awards of tenders.
“It is as if the tenders are being granted in exchange for the financial benefit of the party,” he said.
EOH has subsequently instructed attorneys to issue summons to recover damages from the alleged perpetrators.
The company has also blacklisted 85 enterprise development partners following its corruption crackdown.
Airing EOH’s dirty laundry in public
When allegations of bribery and corruption at EOH first came to light through the media, the company dismissed the reports as “false and untrue”.
“We are confident that our overall governance, risk and compliance framework and processes are robust and strong,” the company said in 2017.
This was expected as it is the typical response from most large corporates when there are allegations of fraud and corruption.
It therefore raises the question of why Van Coller has decided to break the mould and air EOH’s dirty laundry in public.
Speaking to The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield, Van Coller said they did not have an option and that it was the best thing to do.
“The bribery and corruption issues we had in the country for the past 10 years has destroyed what we tried to achieve,” he said.
He said his biggest concern when he took the reins at EOH was to save the 10,000 jobs of honest and hard-working employees.
“It is a great company which does great business, but there were a few rogue employees who were intent on stealing as much money as they could,” he said.
“I just felt that was not fair on the majority of EOH employees.”
Systematic stealing from EOH
Van Coller was appointed as EOH CEO in September 2018 with the mandate to “professionalise the company”.
Upon his arrival, he initiated numerous interventions to establish the veracity of the corruption allegations, which included an in-depth forensic investigation.
He said in partnership with the board, they decided the best way to deal with the problems at EOH was to be transparent about it.
ENSafrica was given unfettered access to the books, records, and emails to investigate bribery and corruption.
Although Van Coller was aware that there may have been problems, what was uncovered surprised him.
“I had no idea that there was going to be systematic stealing from the company and systematic bribery and corruption,” he said.
He said there was not the governance and controls in place at EOH that one would expect at a JSE listed company.
“The lack of controls allowed rogue employees to steal money which nearly brought EOH to its knees.”