The Eskom Board has finalised the appointment of the Chairman of the Inquiry into the allegation against Group Chief Executive, André de Ruyter, the South African utility has announced.
Advocate Ishmael Semenya SC, will conduct the independent inquiry, and, upon completion, issue written findings and recommendations as soon as reasonably possible. Adv. Semenya will also make recommendations to be pursued by the Board against any specific individuals if any wrongdoing is found.
Adv. Semenya will have access to Eskom documents and can consult with any witnesses deemed relevant and necessary for the purposes of this inquiry.
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The inquiry follows allegations of racism and abuse of power made against the Eskom Group Chief Executive by Chief Procurement Officer, Solly Tshitangano.
Tshitangano was suspended in February this year for non-performance and failure to turn around the company’s procurement division. He was tasked with saving Eskom 4% of its annual spend of R140-billion on goods and services.
“We spend R140-billion buying goods and services. We are paying more than what we should be paying. R2-billion savings is not a lot, it’s about 4% of R140-billion. That is exceptionally modest, but Solly has not delivered what was asked of him,” De Ruyter told News24 when Tshitangano was suspended.
Eskom’s procurement division is battling to implement a turnaround strategy according to De Ruyter, saying that the utility would have paid R238,000 ($16,100) for a wooden mop had he not intervened. It was further reported that Eskom had been paying R28 ($1.89) for a roll of single-ply toilet paper and R56 ($3.79) for two-litres of milk. These items normally retail for about R6.99 ($0.47c) for toilet paper to R29.99 ($1.96) for the milk.
It is believed that disagreements between Tshitangano and De Ruyter have been ongoing for more than a year with regards to procurement issues. According to Tshitangano, De Ruyter and other Eskom officials were undermining “good corporate governance under the pretence that they want to protect the interests of Eskom”. He further accused his colleagues of using the “colour of their skin to undermine his authority”.
According to De Ruyter, however, Tshitangano has not been able to assist the Eskom executives in achieving their mandate of addressing loadshedding and ensuring financial stability by achieving the necessary savings in order to improve the utility’s financial position.
He said further that: “We have paid R80,000 ($5,400) for a single-padded knee guard. Those things go for R80 ($5.42) each at Builder’s Warehouse. Those are the abuses that are still going on in the system. These are the instances we know about and I can only assume that there is a lot more. If you are a functionally responsive leader, you get into your car and sort those issues out.”
De Ruyter said he tried to engage Tshitangano several times, but that eventually the impasse was escalated to the human resources department.
Tshitangano was suspended after he failed to attend a variety of meetings with the board subcommittee, De Ruyter, executives for human resources, people management and the company’s chief financial officer.
De Ruyter rejected Tshitangano’s allegations of racism. “There is no buddy club. We have a job to do. Eskom poses a major fiscal, energy and economic risk to South Africa.”
According to a press release: “The Eskom Board of Directors has resolved to initiate an independent inquiry in order to establish the veracity and the basis to the allegation of racism and abuse of power that has been levelled against de Ruyter. The Board has committed to a transparent process and to provide updates at critical stages of the inquiry.”