Appointment of new Eskom CEO a priority – Minister Brown

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JOHANNESBURG, December 15 – Public Enterprises minister Lynne Brown said on Friday that the process of appointing a new permanent group chief executive for power utility Eskom was “a priority” and that the finalization of the investigation into suspended executives was of “paramount importance”.

This comes as news emerged early on Friday that suspended acting chief executive of Eskom, Matshela Koko, had been found not guilty following a protracted disciplinary hearing, and that Eskom had been ordered to reinstate him.

Koko was facing six charges, among others, for allegedly failing to declare a conflict of interest after a company in which his stepdaughter had shares was awarded a tender by a division he led.

Briefing the media at Eskom’s headquarters in Johannesburg during the special general meeting, Brown said that she had not been informed of the outcomes of Koko’s disciplinary hearing, adding that the board was still to brief her on that.

“Among my first instructions to the board was therefore to engage in the process of appointing a new group chief executive as a priority,” Brown said.

“The finalisation of the investigation into all suspended executives is of paramount importance to rebuild board reputation and restore investor confidence. Furthermore I urge to deal with all issues that led to a qualified audit opinion as the company cannot afford a repeat in the current financial year.”

Eskom board chairman Zethembe Khoza also said he would not comment on the disciplinary hearing of Koko until he’s informed Brown.

The special general meeting was convened to introduce the power utility’s new board of directors, welcome new board members an communicate a concise set of short-to-medium term marching orders.

Taking a swipe at disgraced Markus Jooste, the chief executive of Steinhoff, Brown said that serving as board members of State-owned companies in the presently contested political and business environment was “not for softies”.

“Unlike those who serve on the boards of private companies, you will be regarded with suspicion and mistrust. They make ‘accounting mistakes’ while you are susceptible to corruption, capture, greed and malice,” Brown said.

“Who they associate with is inconsequential, they call it lobbying; you must be careful who you play golf with because it will be used as evidence against you.

“Many have bent over backwards, performed cartwheels and somersaults to declare private sector corruption fundamentally different to public sector corruption, the truth is that they are equally repulsive and fundamentally inseparable.”

The Democratic Alliance’s public enterprises spokeswoman Natasha Mazzone described the process that cleared Koko as “a farce”, and said the official opposition party would lay charges against the reinstated CEO.

“Since Eskom and the Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown, are incapable of holding the seemingly captured and heavily implicated Koko to account, it is up to the Hawks to investigate the matter,” Mazzone said.

She said this included allegations that Koko awarded lucrative Eskom contracts, worth R1 billion, to Impulse International, a company linked to his stepdaughter.

“He was also apparently involved in approving a R650 million loan from Eskom to Gupta-linked Tegeta, in order to ensure that the Guptas purchased Optimum,” Mazzone said.

“It is quite clear that this disciplinary hearing was never meant to investigate these serious allegations brought against Koko, but was rather a move to have him reinstated. The hearing has been a complete and absolute farce from beginning to end.”

 – African News Agency (ANA)