Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

The key task of the parliamentary inquiry into state capture is to expose the way in which senior appointments and directives have been subsumed by a political project that serves a corrupt elite, academics from the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business have said.

A reference book on corruption at Eskom, The Eskom Inquiry Reference Book, was authored by Prof Anton Eberhard and Catrina Godinho as part of the state capacity research project. The research project was manned by a group of academics from research institutions at the universities of Stellenbosch, Witwatersrand, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

It was produced as an aid to the parliamentary inquiry into state capture, which is being undertaken by the public enterprises portfolio committee. The inquiry is due to kick off later in September.

The book was presented at a panel discussion on Tuesday night, which was addressed by Eberhard and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

The authors propose questions that MPs could pose to witnesses as they attempt to unravel the web of corruption at Eskom. The list of witnesses who will be required to give evidence under oath includes former CEOs, chairmen and top executives of the power utility, Duduzane Zuma as well as the Gupta brothers.

Eberhard and Godinho expect the committee to make recommendations on how governance of Eskom could be reformed and strengthened.

"Rebuilding and reinforcing good governance at Eskom, including through reviewing systems of appointment and the structure of the utility itself, will likely be a critical area where recommendations should be developed," they say.

While not within the committee’s remit, they also argue in favour of competition and private sector participation.

The committee’s immediate task will be to investigate breaches of laws and regulations and to expose corrupt acts. Where these are clear, it will need to recommend prosecution and forward details to the National Prosecuting Authority.

The authors reject the notion that the reported irregularities are random or unconnected. Rather, this is a co-ordinated political project of state capture whereby governance structures are systematically repurposed to serve corrupt interests.

The most blatant acts of corruption appear to have been perpetrated through the awarding of overpriced coal contracts, the squeezing out of incumbent coal majors and the questionable acquisition of coal mines by the Gupta family, financed by Eskom. Eskom purchases 120-million tonnes a year, worth more than R50bn.

The authors argue that burgeoning costs, arguably propelled by corruption, have resulted in electricity tariffs increasing by more than 400% over the past decade.


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