Clarity needed: Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has been asked to explain why she did not release the Dentons report on Eskom. Prof Anton Eberhard made the call on the first day of an inquiry into the alleged capture of state-owned firms. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Clarity needed: Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has been asked to explain why she did not release the Dentons report on Eskom. Prof Anton Eberhard made the call on the first day of an inquiry into the alleged capture of state-owned firms. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown should explain why the crucial Dentons report on Eskom was withheld from Parliament and the public, says University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business professor Anton Eberhard.

Tuesday was the first day of the inquiry into the alleged capture of state-owned companies, including Eskom‚ Transnet and Denel. Up to 40 witnesses — including Eberhard — are set to testify as MPs try to unravel the alleged web of corruption involving the Gupta family, parastatals, cabinet ministers and President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma, who has denied any wrongdoing.

Eberhard co-wrote an Eskom inquiry booklet for Parliament’s probe into state capture. It provided MPs with information and crucial issues to look for and interrogate in terms of corruption and governance lapses at Eskom.

"To what extent and to what end were key reports, such as the Dentons investigation, withheld from the war room, Cabinet, Parliament and the public?" he asked on Tuesday.

The Dentons report revealed allegations of fraud and corruption against senior employees and board members at the utility. Instead of launching further probes or taking action against the implicated executives, the Eskom board resolved to hide and ignore the allegations.

Eskom’s contracts for the supply of diesel and coal for close to R30bn were one of the concerns in the booklet.

These contracts for its open-cycle gas turbines were allegedly awarded to firms that had no track record in the industry and were probably set up by Eskom employees themselves.

In March, Brown told Parliament that Eskom should brief MPs on the Dentons report. She indicated the issues identified in the report had been resolved.

In his submission to MPs on Tuesday Eberhard suggested some of the questions MPs should put to current and past Eskom executives.

"Were you put under pressure to approve decisions that you did not feel comfortable with? Did you experience anything untoward taking place that would put procurement operations in jeopardy of interference? Did you at any time during your leadership at Eskom take instructions from third parties? Did you ever declare your close relationship with these parties? Were you involved in the award of any tenders to these parties?

"Did members of the executive board ever exert, or threaten to exert, power beyond their mandate? Do you know of any cases where sensitive information was shared with the Guptas, associates or others who had not been cleared to receive such information? Were you given any instructions by the Guptas?" Eberhard said.

He said the immediate task of the committee would be to probe breaches of laws and regulations and expose individual acts of corruption.

Another task would be to expose the way in which board and executive appointments and directives had been subsumed by a political project that served a narrow and corrupt elite.

It also had to make recommendations on how governance of Eskom could be reformed and strengthened in the future, said Eberhard.

The inquiry continues on Wednesday.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za


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