Eskom hires senior counsel to probe graft claims against executive
An independent senior counsel will investigate the corruption allegations levelled against Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer, the power utility announced on Thursday.
Allegations emerged at the weekend that Oberholzer is a shareholder in construction firm Stefanutti Stock, one of the companies that allegedly defrauded Eskom of close to R140bn.
The Sunday Independent reported that Oberholzer owns shares in Stefanutti Stocks. The report claimed that Oberholzer held several meetings with the company’s directors shortly after his appointment at Eskom in 2018.
The allegations come as the power utility is struggling to stay afloat and keep the lights on. Ratings agencies have cited state-owned entities, including Eskom and SAA, which carry debts of close to R700bn between them, among the risks to the sustainability of the nation’s finances.
The Eskom board said on Thursday that it had received correspondence from Corruption Watch, an anti-corruption civil society organisation, and from the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), earlier in March.
“Both organisations articulate allegations of corruption and victimisation against the chief operating officer. Both organisations cite the same source, an Eskom employee who has since deposed to an affidavit to the commission of inquiry into state capture, as having raised the allegations. In the correspondence, the organisations implore the Eskom board to intervene and act to protect the whistle-blower,” the board said.
It said many of the allegations raised in the letters have not previously been made available to the executive management and the board of Eskom.
“From the onset, it must be stated categorically that Eskom’s executive management and the board stand firmly against corruption, victimisation and abuse of power. We also stand resolutely for transparency, good corporate governance, good ethics and being a fair employer.”
The board said it has previously dealt with matters concerning the employee in question, and after an investigation led by an outside senior counsel, the investigation was closed after a thorough examination of the allegations, to which no substance was found.
“However, in light of the new allegations as articulated in the Corruption Watch and Saftu letters, including the alleged abuse of power, the board of Eskom has taken urgent steps to address these allegations in a transparent process after Eskom’s governance principles and disciplinary codes.
“In the best interest of Eskom and both the complainant and the COO, the board has engaged the services of an independent senior counsel to investigate the allegations against the COO, and upon conclusion of such an investigation, to provide recommendations to the board.
“It is hoped that the conclusion of such an investigation, together with any subsequent actions that may be required, will bring about a fair and lasting resolution to the matter for all parties concerned,” the board said.