Eskom slams claims of it going after whistleblowers

Eskom has described claims that it has launched an investigation to expose whistleblowers as “serious, concerning, and malicious”.

This comes after reports that the power utility has embarked on an investigation to expose those who revealed information about the alleged R500 million security contract awarded to Fidelity Services Group.

“The organisation considers whistleblowing an important aspect of uncovering acts of maleficence and as a vehicle to rooting out corruption within its ranks,” said Eskom.

“These allegations are painting Eskom’s integrity in a bad light.”

“More concerning is that the allegations have a potential to discourage employees from reporting irregularities, thereby reversing some of the gains in the fight against fraud and corruption,” it added.

The power utility said it has various channels to report corruption or fraudulent activities, including the enlisted service of Whistle Blowers (Pty) Ltd — an “independent whistleblowing company”.

It said these services allow employees, suppliers, and the public to report fraud or criminal activity anonymously.

“The identity of the anonymous whistleblowers is not known, not even the official with whom the complaint is raised, rendering the use of the service a form of protection to whistleblowers,” said Eskom.

Where employees choose to report suspicious activities without the veil of anonymity, Eskom says its Whistleblowing Policy makes provisions for their protection.

In late August 2023, Eskom reportedly contracted a forensic audit firm to investigate allegations against Karen Pillay — Eskom’s now-suspended head of security.

Pillay is one of the prominent people of interest in the investigation into Eskom’s awarding of a R250 million security contract to Fidelity.

Karen Pillay, acting head of security at Eskom

“The investigation is highly confidential, sensitive and urgent and the acting senior manager of forensics will provide its detailed scope to the supplier,” the text scope of the audit reportedly said.

It also specified that the audit firm would “perform any other investigative activity deemed necessary to establish the facts” and provide post-investigation support.

Eskom insiders described the investigation as a distraction tactic by implicated executives to draw attention away from the Special Investigating Unit’s probe into allegations against them.

One source reportedly said anyone who’s ever spoken to a newspaper is a target of the investigation.

Eskom placed Pillay on precautionary suspension on 22 June 2023, saying it needed to allow space for the investigation into allegations against her.

The allegations against Pillay surround her alleged involvement in channelling the contract to Fidelity.

Rival security firm NSA Global alleged that Pillay approached them to develop an emergency security contract, which she then awarded to Fidelity at a significantly higher cost.

In June 2023, Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann confirmed that the company was awarded a three-month emergency security contract with Eskom worth R250 million — not the R500 million initially reported in the press.

Bartmann explained that the contract was comprehensive, including land and air support, tactical intervention units, and crowd control.

Eskom entered into the emergency contract following its wage dispute with unions in June 2022, which turned into destructive riots at its power stations and employees’ homes.

For their part, the unions denied any involvement with the attacks, saying their members were acting of their own accord. Yet, when Eskom returned to the negotiating table, the attacks stopped.

At one stage, the attacks got so bad that Eskom called a media briefing, during which public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan showed pictures of employees’ homes and cars being fire-bombed and tyres slashed.

Gordhan said at the time that the protests were the main reason South Africa had slipped into constant stage 6 load-shedding.

Bartmann said its contract with Eskom comprised a national deployment to cover its generation and transmission assets.

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Eskom slams claims of it going after whistleblowers