How to steal a billion from Eskom — and leave South Africa in darkness

Eskom employees and contractors at the Tutuka power station managed to steal spares worth R1.3 billion and got away with it.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter revealed the power utility had to write off the spares as they could not track them down.

He also stated that Eskom was aware of continued collusion between maintenance contractors and coal suppliers to sabotage its generation equipment.

“During the last financial year ended 31 March 2021, we had to write off R1.3 billion in spares at Tutuka power station, where we simply couldn’t find the spares,” De Ruyter said.

He stated that the situation indicated the misappropriation of the funds assigned for spares at the power station and that the investigations into the matter are ongoing.

De Ruyter explained that another significant challenge Eskom is facing is the sabotage of its equipment by coal suppliers colluding with maintenance contractors.

“We are also aware of collusion taking place between people with maintenance contracts, maintenance management, and coal suppliers in order to, for example, disrupt the operation of mills by adding very hard objects to the supply of coal into a mill,” he said.

This ensures that the mill breaks and that the contractor can then come in to repair the damage.

De Ruyter said that continued sabotage and criminal activity had resulted in Eskom stepping up security at its power stations.

“We now have people on the floor at our power stations patrolling regularly. It is not an ideal situation,” he said.

He added that Eskom is conducting various investigations into continued corruption, particularly in generation procurement. It would be taking further steps to eradicate the phenomenon from the generation department.

This would, in turn, help to stabilise the power utility’s generation capacity.

“It is really contributing to unreliable generation capacity when people are focussed more on stealing than on doing their jobs,” he stated.

In November 2021, Eskom announced that two of its employees and a supplier had been arrested and charged with fraud, theft, and corruption relating to the disappearance of spares at Tutuka power station.

Eskom alleged that it had paid hundreds of millions of rand — not the R1.3 billion it has now revealed — for spares that were never delivered and services that were never rendered.

The suspects — Jessie Phindile Kubeka, Sarah Nomsa Sibiya and Bhekizizwe Solomon Twala — all faced the same charges and were released on bail of R5,000 each.

Commenting on De Ruyter’s statements, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse said that the looting at Eskom won’t stop until people are jailed for their crimes.

Now read: What a total Eskom power blackout in South Africa would look like

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How to steal a billion from Eskom — and leave South Africa in darkness