Stepdaughter of Eskom boss got R1bn contracts from the utility
'She is my stepdaughter from my wife's previous relationship and she lives with us, but I wasn't aware that she was a director of this company until four weeks ago'
The stepdaughter of Eskom boss Matshela Koko raked in contracts worth about R1-billion for her company from the state utility.
Koketso Choma, 26, who graduated just three years ago, was appointed a director at Impulse International last April.
Over the next 11 months, the company was awarded eight lucrative contracts from a division of Eskom that Koko headed up until he was appointed acting CEO in December.
This week Koko contradicted himself, first telling Sunday Times he had only found out about his stepdaughter's involvement in Impulse four weeks ago. He later said in an e-mail that he had known about it since August.
As group executive for generation, Koko had direct influence on supply chain management at Eskom, a division that reported to him.
In total, Impulse International - which describes itself on its website as "a multinational engineering and project management, planning and cost management consultancy and technical service provider" - has been awarded close to R1.8-billion in tenders from Eskom since 2014. Of those deals, contracts of R1-billion were awarded while Choma was a director at the company, a position she has since resigned from.
But Koko, who was named in the public protector's state capture report as having authorised a payment of almost R600-million to the Gupta-owned Tegeta - believed to have been used to buy Optimum Coal - is claiming ignorance.
He said this week that he had only discovered last month that Choma, who he lives with in Bryanston, Johannesburg, was a shareholder at Impulse International. Koko has been married to Koketso's mother, Mosima, since 2009.
"She is my stepdaughter from my wife's previous relationship and she lives with us, but I wasn't aware that she was a director of this company until four weeks ago and I asked her to resign with immediate effect," he told the Sunday Times.
Among the deals awarded to the company while Choma was a director was a R79-million contract for construction supervision at Kusile power plant, which was extended by 10 months in a subsequent R198-million deal, as well as a R300-million subcontract for trunk cabling for Unit 2 at Kusile power station from the main contractor, ABB, last October.
Koko, who has worked for Eskom for 21 years, is seen to be ahead in the race to replace Brian Molefe, who resigned in November after being implicated by the public protector in alleged improper dealings with the Gupta family.
At the time, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said Koko had a wealth of experience and understood the challenges faced by the state utility.
Brown told the Sunday Times yesterday that Koko had phoned her earlier in the day to alert her about the article. "The board must deal with the matter and report back to me," she said. "If there is any proof of wrongdoing, Koko will face a disciplinary process."
A source told the Sunday Times this week that a whistleblower had tipped off a board member that Koko was channelling deals to his stepdaughter's company and confronted him with the evidence. "He then forced her to resign as a damage-control exercise," the source said.
Koko denied these allegations.
Another source said Choma "is fresh from school for such a high-profile job" after graduating in 2013.
Sources claimed Koko bullied some of Eskom's main contractors to "subcontract Impulse International".
But Koko is adamant that Impulse International deals did not go through him at Eskom and denied bullying any contractor to work with the company.
"I didn't know about these deals as they didn't go through me," he said, claiming his stepdaughter was a businesswoman in her own right.
"She is a qualified chartered accountant and does her own things," he said.
In a later e-mail to the Sunday Times, Koko said there was no legal obligation for him to declare his conflict of interest after Choma resigned from Impulse International.
However, he said he later became aware that she "is now a beneficiary and trustee of Mokoni Trust, which has an interest in Impulse International". He said he had asked Choma to resign as a trustee before declaring her position to Eskom.
Choma acknowledged on Friday that she had been a nonexecutive director at Impulse International between April and October last year.
"I decided to resign when my stepdad became aware of my relationship with Impulse and advised me to resign as a director as it might be perceived as a conflict of interest despite all the safeguards that have been put in place.
"I was appointed as a development candidate to gain as much experience as I could from the company, with the objective that one day I will use the experience to assist with running my own company. I am not reliant on my stepdad for my livelihood and do not really engage him on my business dealings," she said.
Impulse International CEO Pragasen Pather said this week that Choma had been one of three directors in his company when it was "awarded smaller contracts by Eskom". He added: "We did identify that there was a conflict of interest as we were getting contracts from Eskom where Koketso's stepfather is a boss and we had to let her go."
Pather said he had met Koko several times at business conferences but denied they were close.