After a series of allegations of corruption, dishonesty, conflict of interest, and abuse of power were levelled by an employee against Eskom’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) in March, the Eskom board appointed an external Senior Counsel to conduct an investigation into the allegations and to advise the board and the Group Chief Executive Officer on the way forward.
The Senior Counsel was entitled to interview any person, to review any documentation, including documentation provided by any Eskom employees and third parties that he deemed appropriate for the purposes of the investigation.
The Senior Counsel commenced his investigation from 20 March 2020 and his report was submitted to the Board on 4 April 2020.
In his Terms of Reference, among others, the Senior Counsel was briefed specifically to investigate:
- Whether there was any undisclosed conflict of interest by the COO pertaining to Stefanutti Stocks, or any other entity, which may potentially result in breaches of the Conflict of Interest Policy of Eskom; whether since his return in 2018 to Eskom, the COO in his dealings with any functionaries of Stefanutti Stocks breached his fiduciary duties and any policies of Eskom; whether there is any corruption or personal benefit derived by the COO arising from the placement of the Black and Veatch contract in 2007, or subsequently from his involvement in the Black and Veatch contract;
- The circumstances that led to the complainant being transferred from his position as General Manager: Mega Projects (Capital Division) to the Human Resources Department and whether such transfer was done in accordance with the applicable Human Resources policies of Eskom.
The Senior Counsel conducted his investigation by interviewing witnesses and reviewing the information and documentary evidence provided by the witnesses, including the complainant and other Eskom officials.
On 04 April 2020 the Senior Counsel submitted his findings to Eskom and the board has considered the findings.
Findings into the corruption allegation
The Senior Counsel has found no basis to the allegations of dishonesty, corruption, conflict of interest and abuse of power levelled against the COO.
With regard to the allegations of a conflict of interest regarding Stefanutti Stocks, the Senior Counsel found that proper disclosure had been made of Oberholzer’s shareholding in Stefanutti Stocks, and that “this is not a matter in which he should face a disciplinary hearing”.
In considering the Black and Veatch contract, the Senior Counsel could “find no fault or other improper conduct on the part of Oberholzer insofar as this transaction is concerned”.
With reference to the transfer of the alleged whistle-blower, the investigation could “find no wrongdoing in the process followed by Oberholzer in this regard”.
While the investigation found that the relationship between Oberholzer and the employee who made allegations of victimisation had been characterised by tension, the Senior Counsel did “not find that there was victimisation or that any further legal processes should follow”.
Eskom is defending a claim of R42 million against Aveng, which is scheduled to be argued in the South Gauteng High Court during May 2020.
The Board will, therefore, await the outcome of these proceedings before deciding whether there is a need for any disciplinary action against any employee.
On all the other allegations against Oberholzer that were put before the Senior Counsel, the Board is satisfied that these have been fully and adequately ventilated and investigated, and that there is no cause for any action against Oberholzer.
The Board is committed to the highest principles of ethics and good corporate governance, and will investigate any and all allegations made against any Eskom employee, regardless of their position or seniority.