Eskom must spy on staff and their families, says watchdog

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) wants Eskom to monitor the bank accounts, email inboxes, and cellphones of its employees, their spouses, and their children, City Press reports.

This was one of the outcomes of SIU’s submission to Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) last week. SIU head Advocate Andy Mothibi said vetting Eskom employees isn’t enough.

“Eskom should consider implementing contractual terms that allow for access to the personal information of the employee, such as bank accounts of the employee [and his/her spouse and children], emails and cellphone communications,” City Press quoted Mothibi as saying.

He also wants the power utility to amend its employment contracts to include terms allowing routine voice-stress analysis and lie-detector testing.

Mothibi advised that Eskom should also monitor supply chain management practitioners, contract managers, and financial staff.

“Monitor the lifestyles and financial transactions of high-risk officials; monitor the declarations of interest; manage information obtained through the declaration of interests by both officials and bidders,” he said.

For example, if an official declares their interest in a business, Eskom must ensure it doesn’t appear on its vendor database. If it does, the power utility must remove the company from its database.

Mothibi’s other recommendations are as follows:

  • Create a database of officials and contractors identified to be “high-risk”;
  • Deploy a system to flag transactions approved by these “high-risk” officials on Eskom’s SAP payment system or payments made to “high-risk” suppliers and contractors; and,
  • Improve transparency in the procurement process.

The SIU is investigating several contracts, including the supply of diesel and the procurement of goods and services by several power stations and Eskom’s head office at Megawatt Park in Johannesburg.

This comes after former Eskom chief André de Ruyter made explosive allegations about the involvement of high-level government officials in corruption at the power utility.

In an interview on E-tv’s My Guest Tonight with Annika Larsen, De Ruyter said the evidence suggests that Eskom is a feeding trough for South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC).

He echoed the allegations in his recently-released book.

Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter published a book titled Truth to Power, My Three Years Inside Eskom on Sunday, 14 May 2023.

The former CEO said he informed a senior government minister about attempts to water down governance around funding relating to South Africa’s Just Energy Transition.

The minister said that De Ruyter had to be “pragmatic”.

“In order to pursue the greater good, you have to enable some people to eat a little bit,” they said, according to De Ruyter.

The former CEO also raised concerns over politicians’ involvement in the coal cartels and sabotage crippling Eskom’s power stations.

“We know of at least four organised crime cartels operating in Mpumalanga in Eskom. Some of them also have interests in Transnet,” he said.

“It’s interesting that they have adopted the language of the mafia. People are called soldiers, and they have a hit squad, allegedly with between 60 and 70 highly-trained, well-armed people.”

De Ruyter said the lack of action against individuals that Eskom had linked to the criminal syndicates suggested politicians were involved.

The former CEO was summoned before Scopa on Wednesday, 26 April 2023, to answer questions regarding his allegations.

De Ruyter refused to identify two high-ranking officials suspected to be involved in corruption, essentially saying his safety would be at risk if he did.

However, he confirmed that he reported their identities to public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and the president’s national security adviser Sydney Mufamadi.

“Regarding the identity of the minister concerned, I think that this is a question which I would see falling within the ambit of potential security risks that could arise from such disclosure,” De Ruyter said.

“I, therefore, would direct, with respect, the committee to rather engage with the oversight minister.”

News24 reported that the two politicians De Ruyter refused to name were then-deputy President of South Africa, David Mabuza, and Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe.

However, the publication and several other news organisations have questioned the veracity of the intelligence reports De Ruyter relied on for his allegation, with News24 labelling it the “dirty dossier”.

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Eskom must spy on staff and their families, says watchdog