Cape Town- Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown on Thursday announced a probe into procurement at Eskom dating back to 2007, stressing that she wanted it to get to the bottom of allegations of corruption involving the utility's coal contracts.
Brown said she would ask the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to use the findings of seven investigations that have been conducted at Eskom in recent years as the basis for a full-scale probe. Its findings would then be handed to a retired judge. "There are lots of allegations of corruption. I have been saying there are seven reports. they were largely dealt with by the board.
I would like so see the seven reports, all of them, being looked into, the PwC report, the Deloitte report, all of them, and because the SIU has this structure of forensic auditors, forensic investigators I thought that would be the best," Brown told a media briefing ahead of her budget vote speech. "And what would be useful would be to get a retired judge to at the end synthesise all of it so that we are able to have clear recommendations that would give us a clear direction as to what to do.
"I really want a judge or a retired judge so that I don't have any doubt about the credibility of the investigation." She said the department was still drafting the terms of reference, but confirmed that it would include the findings of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in her "State of Capture" report which indicated that Eskom CEO Brian Molefe may have gone out of his way award a coal contract to the Gupta family's Tegeta Exploration.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers probe she cited dealt with the Tegeta coal contract and according to findings released this month by National Treasury found that due diligence had not been done. "It is essentially issues around procurement, the stuff that is in the public space. I want the whole coal process investigated."
Brown announced the inquiry two days after she was flayed by Parliament's public enterprises committee for allowing the reinstatement of Molefe as CEO of Eskom this month, and accused by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) of lying to MPs. The minister told the committee that she learnt in April that Molefe did not resign in November in response to Madonsela's report, but had in fact sought early retirement and been on unpaid leave while serving a brief stint as an ANC MP.
She declined to respond directly to the ANC's comments, but reiterated that she had not lied. "If the leadership says I must come, I will have to defend myself there," Brown said. "I am not lying to Parliament. I have an affidavit to court where I should not be lying. I have not lied." Brown initially defended the decision to send Molefe back to Eskom, saying he has not been found guilty of anything since Madonsela's report was never investigated further.
However the ANC has called on her to rescind his reappointment and this week she made a U-turn, telling MPs she had decided not to oppose the court bid by the Democratic Alliance to have his appointment set aside. Trade Union Solidarity has since joined in the application and reportedly submitted court papers claiming that Brown had been informed about the terms of Molefe's job contract with Eskom. She had told MPs that it was signed when under Eskom's 2014 memorandum of incorporation, which kept her at arm's length from such details.
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The budget vote debate was often fractious, with the DA's Natasha Mazzone saying: "Minister Brown's reputation will never recover after this week's fiasco." Mazzone called on Brown to suspend the Eskom board and send forensic investigators to the company's headquarters to confiscate documents least they be shredded. Earlier this week, former finance minister Pravin Gordhan said the time had come for the board to resign or be fired.
Gordhan suggested Molefe and Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh be investigated not only for their action at Eskom but at Transnet, where they held the same posts. But in announcing the probe, Brown said it would be confined to Eskom.
The portfolio committee has decided to probe the circumstances surrounding Molefe's initial appointment and re-appointment and the opposition has asked for a further parliamentary probe into Eskom's dealings.
AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY