Eskom CEO Andre De Ruyter has hit back at accusations of racism and abuse by suspended Eskom chief procurement officer (CPO) Solly Tshitangano, labelling them as “spurious” and “defamatory”.
These comments were contained in a 53-page affidavit submitted by De Ruyter to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), which was provided to MyBroadband.
This was in responding to a decision by Scopa to investigate the claims made by Tshitangano following his suspension due to alleged under-performance.
In the elaborate affidavit, De Ruyter claimed the allegations and energy he had spent in dealing with them had seriously hampered his ability to properly and efficiently conduct his duties.
“In effect, a simple and straightforward operational issue dealing with under-performance has been elevated to parliamentary level,” De Ruyter stated.
“Mr Tshitangano’s allegations are entirely without merit and appear to be an attempt to subvert Eskom’s internal disciplinary process.”
“Most egregiously, by raising these allegations at this point in time, Mr Tshitangano has frustrated this Committee’s ability to consider Eskom’s annual financial statements, procurement processes and investigations into irregular expenditure at Eskom,” he added.
De Ruyter claimed that Tshitangano was unable to meet key performance areas, including in renegotiating payment terms with large multinational companies doing business with Eskom.
The CEO argued this was essential to helping Eskom recover from its dire financial situation, and in other organisations this process was typically driven by the CPO.
“Accordingly, Mr Tshitangano was requested to investigate, and where appropriate, engage the suppliers, in order for the appropriate extension of payment to be made.”
“Mr Tshitangano failed to do so and has instead sought to devise justification for his failure to secure savings for Eskom,” De Ruyter said.
Among his failings in this regard was that Tshitangano had not taken steps to investigate alleged overcharging and corrupt practices by Econ Oil, who had been a major fuel supplier to Eskom since the early 2000s.
The utility’s dealings with Econ Oil was probed in a forensic investigation by law firm Bowmans, who recommended that Eskom immediately suspend business with Econ Oil.
However, Tshitangano had “approved and facilitated” the awarding of a further R8-billion in work to Econ Oil, De Ruyter said.
He named examples of where he had tackled corruption at the utility, including:
- R3.8-billion claim instituted against Gupta family members and other Eskom directors.
- R5 billion recovered from ABB for overpayments on projects at Kusile.
- R2-billion claim against Econ Oil for alleged overpayments.
- R177 million recovered from Deloitte Consulting.
- R108-million claim against PwC Consulting.
De Ruyter has come under immense pressure since his appointment in late 2019.
Eskom is facing a mountain-sized debt of more than R464 billion, is widely considered to be overstaffed by thousands of employees, and has an ageing generation fleet which requires regular maintenance and often struggles to meet South Africa’s electricity demand.
De Ruyter has been appointed to slash primary energy costs, reduce debt, improving efficiency, cutting staff, and increase maintenance.
These tasks may be deemed impossible by most reasonable experts, particularly given the political labyrinth De Ruyter would have to navigate with regards to labour relations and BEE considerations.
Eskom’s Board of Directors has also initiated an independent inquiry which aims to establish the veracity and the basis to the allegations made by Tshitangano against De Ruyter.
It recently announced the appointment of Advocate Ishmael Semenya to conduct the independent inquiry, and, upon completion, to issue written findings and recommendations as soon as reasonably possible.
“Adv. Semenya has also been requested to make recommendations to be pursued by the Board against any specific individuals if any wrongdoing is found,” Eskom stated.
“Adv. Semenya is free to request and to receive Eskom documents, and to consult with any witnesses deemed relevant and necessary for the purposes of this inquiry.”