The misrepresentation of the Eskom situation by David Winckler (Letters, March 18-24) cannot be left unchallenged.
It is not the complainant — in this case the suspended chief procurement officer (CPO) of Eskom — who makes the Eskom issue a racial matter. It’s the board of the utility that elevates the matter as a racial one.
The alleged transgressions reported to the board and the minister of public enterprises are completely ignored, and a diligent, hardworking, individual of the highest ethical standards (Solly Tshitangano) is being crucified for taking steps to uphold the rule of law.
The minister and his board ignored section 217 of the constitution, all procurement laws and the corporate governance required by the Public Finance Management Act.
David, these are the facts, and they will become more clear when the standing committee on public accounts conducts its hearings on the matters raised by Eskom’s suspended CPO.
I’m listing just a few:
- Did the Eskom CEO follow due and proper process in appointing the so-called oil expert? This is an allegation.
- A request is made by the CPO that a contractual matter relating to consulting company Black & Veatch be investigated. This company was appointed in about 2007 for R100m. It is alleged that this contract was illegally converted into an evergreen contract and, up to today, the company has been paid over R12bn. The CPO of Eskom was collaborating with the Special Investigating Unit on this matter prior to his suspension. Don’t you think this should be investigated?
- It is alleged that the CEO has not followed due process in barring Econ Oil from doing business with Eskom. Nowhere in the correspondence that I have seen does the suspended CPO pronounce guilt or innocence on the company. Instead, he implores the CEO of Eskom to follow proper process to ensure the utility doesn’t open itself up to litigation. Don’t you think that due process in contractual disputes should be followed?
The manner in which Eskom is handling this matter highlights serious governance failure at the utility.
The suspended CPO informs the CEO that his conduct relating to supply chain management is contrary to the constitution and the relevant procurement legislation. As a responsible citizen he reports it to the board. The board doesn’t investigate these allegations.
Given the inaction of the board, the CPO reports the matter to the relevant shareholder minister. The minister does not act on this and his delegate refers it back to the board. The board refers it back to the CEO to investigate himself.
Is this proper? Only after realising that they did not do their job in the first place did the board institute an investigation and confine it to a racial investigation.
The facts before the board and the minister are that there are serious procurement failures. Why not investigate these? The CEO, the board and the minister have let us down here.
I agree with you, David, that it is about time nonperformance in the public sector is dealt with. However, our governance system needs to work in tandem to ensure we get optimal outcomes.
In addition, nonperformance must be addressed even-handedly. Our country has experienced load-shedding for the past eight or so years, and the CEO has informed us that we will be facing load-shedding for the foreseeable future.
Surely this is a failure of seismic proportions. Who is responsible for energy generation at the utility? Are they not being subjected to the same human resources processes as the now suspended CPO?
Former chief procurement officer, National Treasury
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