Sikonathi Mantshantsha Deputy editor: Financial Mail
Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

The public enterprises minister has issued what she calls a "final ultimatum" to the board of Eskom, demanding the utility give her a report on Tuesday on numerous processes to address the alleged corruption threatening to collapse Eskom. However, Lynne Brown has on previous occasions given the utility "ultimatums" but failed to take any action.

In a statement tweeted and e-mailed to some media organisations on Friday, the minister said she wants a briefing from the chairman and chief executive officer on the resolutions the board has reached regarding "disciplinary processes, investigations into questionable contracts, stability in the company and particular the executive team," among other issues.

Eskom had in June furnished the minister and the media with a report in which it denied paying "a cent" to Gupta-linked company Trillian, which the minister then used to assure parliament the controversial family was not financially benefiting from the utility.

Eskom was later forced to acknowledge not only that it had irregularly and possibly illegally paid Trillian about R600m of tax-payers’money, but also to acknowledge that it had lied about the payments. Two weeks ago, in an equally frank statement, Brown gave Eskom an ultimatum to present her with a report on why it had lied to her and parliament.

"The briefing must specifically include an update on investigative and disciplinary processes with respect to former acting chief executive Matshela Koko and chief financial officer Anoj Singh – and definitive answers to the Trillian questions," said Brown.

The irregular payments to Trillian and McKinsey make up half the R3bn bill for irregular and wasteful expenditure that earned Eskom a qualified audit report in the year ended March. Some of the financiers who lent Eskom more than R470bn in bonds threatened to recall their loans as the utility had breached some of it covenants with the qualified audit.

Koko has been suspended since early May pending a disciplinary action for his alleged nepotism and irregularly awarding contracts to a company in which his daughter owns shares. But the utility has been dragging its feet, allegedly with Brown’s blessing, on his disciplinary process. To date Koko has not been called to answer to the charges.

Eskom has been labouring under the weight of corruption, and Brown has previously admitted to have helped cover up some of the evidence of wrong doing at the utility.

Singh was placed on special leave in July, at the insistence of funders that included the Development Bank of Southern Africa, for his role in the Trillian payments and the irregular expenditure bill. The information on which Brown relied on when she inadvertently lied to parliament emanated from Singh’s office.

In August Eskom suspended two senior executives in relation to the Trillian payments, but reinstated them two days later, allegedly after chairman Zethembe Khoza insisted the suspensions be rescinded. This he denies, as he also denies irregularly interfering in management decisions.

Curiously, Brown’s "ultimatum" singled out the legal department for its alleged tardiness in responding to her questions. This would seem the minister to be overstepping her mark and unfairly singling out a department for Eskom’s failures. The division, as do all of Eskom’s business units, reports to the chief executive, who in turn reports to the board.

The minister only deals with the board, through chairman Zethembe Khoza. Asked why the minister singled out the legal department in particular, and whether the department reports to her directly, Brown’s spokesman Colin Cruywagen requested time to respond.

On that occasion, Brown had given Eskom another "ultimatum" on the Trillian/McKinsey irregularities. Despite having received the report and evidence on September 1, Brown has been dragging her feet and failing to act against any alleged offenders.

Both board chairman Khoza and acting chief executive officer Johnny Dladla, whom met Brown at the airport on Friday, have also failed to act against corruption at the utility.

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