Top Eskom executive used free electricity for 14 years – Report

A top Eskom executive has had an illegally-connected electricity meter at his Fourways home and has used free electricity since 2006, The Sunday Times reports.

According to the report, the executive in question is Eskom acting group executive of legal and compliance Bartlett Hewu, who is currently suspended.

The illegal connection was discovered when Hewu reported a problem with his electricity supply last month.

Once Eskom investigated the problem, it was found that the executive’s home electricity meter was not linked to any Eskom account, the report said, adding that he had accrued an electricity bill of more than R247,000, which he has now been charged by Eskom in arrears.

Sources told The Sunday Times that Hewu was being treated lightly by the power utility, but Eskom told the publication that it takes all allegations of wrongdoing against any member of staff very seriously.

“The employee in question, an acting executive, has been placed on suspension with immediate effect while investigations continue,” Eskom said.

The discovery of a long-standing illegal electricity connection at the home of a top Eskom executive is concerning, but it pales in comparison to the financial damage done by irregular contracts entered into by corrupt executives at the power utility over the years.

Combing through irregular contracts

Eskom has a history of corruption and state capture, and a number of its procurement contracts have been investigated for irregularities.

Through this process, Eskom discovered a number of contracts that were entered into under irregular conditions, as well as others that were overpaid or simply did not result in work being completed.

The power utility has begun to recoup the money it spent on these contracts. Most recently, Eskom announced that it had recovered R1.56 billion from ABB South Africa as settlement for a dispute over corrupt contracts.

The contract was unlawfully awarded through corrupt means for work on the Kusile power station, with ABB being appointed to complete the installation of control and instrument system for the six units of the power plant.

Eskom executives were at the centre of the corrupt ABB South Africa contract, but they have been difficult to track down and are no longer at the power utility.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has identified those former Eskom executives that were responsible for the awarding of the contract.

“The investigation has shown that they have since left the organisation,” it said.

“Resignation only terminates the employer-employee relationship. We will pursue them if there is any indication they have caused damage to Eskom.”

Load-shedding and debt

Eskom CEO Andre De Ruyter said he was pleased that Eskom had managed to recover the R1.56-billion sum from ABB South Africa.

However, even this significant recovery would not make a dent in the power utility’s significant debt.

De Ruyter noted that the total amount paid to Eskom by ABB only accounts for 0.25% of the total Eskom debt, and will therefore not make any major step towards paying this off.

The stability of Eskom’s power generation system has also declined recently, resulting in load-shedding returning on Saturday 12 December 2020.

The power utility announced on Friday that it would implement stage 2 load-shedding on both Saturday and Sunday due to a shortage of emergency generation reserves and unplanned outages.

However, on Sunday morning, it confirmed that load-shedding had been suspended thanks to a recovery of the emergency generation reserves.

Now read: Amazon to produce solar and wind electricity in South Africa

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