Pylon it on: As a newly appointed board tries to right the sinking Eskom ship, the Competition Tribunal is set to investigate allegations of tender-rigging worth R4.5bn at the debt-ridden power utility. Picture: REUTERS
Pylon it on: As a newly appointed board tries to right the sinking Eskom ship, the Competition Tribunal is set to investigate allegations of tender-rigging worth R4.5bn at the debt-ridden power utility. Picture: REUTERS

The Competition Commission has referred a R4.5bn tender-rigging case involving Eskom suppliers to the Competition Tribunal after the regulator proceeded with its investigation despite Eskom’s attempts to withdraw the matter.

Eskom, which was forced to approach the Public Investment Corporation this week for R5bn to relieve short-term cash flow pressures, first approached the commission in March 2016, while Brian Molefe still led the entity, to complain about collusive tendering for the supply of goods at 15 Eskom coal-fired power stations.

Its suspicions were sparked when SGB Cape, a subsidiary of Waco Africa, submitted multiple tenders, one on its own and three others in joint ventures with Tedoc Industries, Mtsweni Corrosion Control and Superfecta Trading, said commission spokesman Sipho Ngwema.

The same person signed all four tender submissions, with safety, financial, technical and quality documents being identical. On investigating, evidence of collusive tendering was found.

Ngwema said SGB Cape had "priced the bids in such a way that it manipulated prices quoted by itself and the respective joint ventures".

Complaint withdrawn

However, in March 2017, Eskom – then led by interim CEO Matshela Koko, who has since been accused of corruption and suspended – withdrew its tender-rigging complaint.

On Tuesday, Eskom did not respond to questions on why it had withdrawn the complaint.

After facing corruption allegations during a disciplinary hearing and then returning to Eskom, Koko, who declined a request by Eskom’s new board to resign or be fired, has been suspended again and faces fresh disciplinary charges.

He had planned to argue in the labour court on Tuesday that Eskom had not followed proper procedure when its new board gave him the ultimatum.

But that argument‚ according to Eskom‚ was no longer valid as the ultimatum had been dropped‚ fresh disciplinary charges had been instituted and Koko was on suspension.

The Sunday Times reported in 2017 that Impulse International‚ a firm in which Koko’s stepdaughter Koketso Choma owned a stake‚ was awarded tenders worth almost R1bn, allegedly without proper processes being followed. Koko said at the time he had no influence over awarding the tenders. An internal disciplinary hearing initially found him not guilty on charges he had acted to benefit his stepdaughter.

He was later presented with the ultimatum to resign or be fired by the new board. He rejected this.

In his replying affidavit submitted in court on Tuesday‚ Koko had planned to deny allegations that he was a central player in the collapse of corporate governance at the utility.

Eskom’s Khulu Phasiwe confirmed that Koko faced a new disciplinary inquiry.

Competition commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele relied on the body’s rules to continue with the probe.

He has directed the commission to prosecute the four companies for price fixing and tender collusion.

With TimesLive

Please sign in or register to comment.