Eskom on Thursday suspended its head of assurance and forensics division. File Photo: IOL

JOHANNESBURG – Eskom on Thursday suspended its head of assurance and forensics division, Molefi Nkhabu, as the utility continued its purge of executives associated with the Gupta businesses. Eskom said Nkhabu was suspended for signing off on transactions exonerating executives implicated in maladministration. 

Nkhabu was allegedly suspended last week after internal ongoing investigations fingered him in cover-ups that exonerated former executives such as ex-head of generation and acting chief executive Matshela Koko, chief financial officer Anoj Singh and the general manager for capital projects, Prish Govender. 

Eskom insiders said Nkhabu took the fall allegedly for the terminated McKinsey contract, the equally quashed contract with Impulse International, the Trillian dealings and the Tegeta contract with Eskom, among others.

The source said Nkhabu's fall puts him alongside former chief information officer Sean Maritz, head of capital contracts Frans Hlakudi, supply chain boss Charles Kalima as well as Edwin Mabelane of group technology.

A senior investigator who has been at the forefront of Eskom investigations, but declined to be named, said it was positive that someone at the power utility was starting to take investigations seriously.

“This is a very positive turnaround in the current group management; this is good in terms of doing thorough and proper investigations. There is a lot that still needs to be investigated at Eskom,” he said.

Survived

Last year Koko survived the axe for failing to declare a conflict of interest in deals totalling more than R1 billion that were awarded to a company in which his stepdaughter owned a stake.

In its annual report for 2018, Eskom acknowledged the negative image it had attained from the behaviour of its senior executives, which had made it almost a pariah to investors, lenders, civil and government institutions as well as the media.

Chairperson Jabu Mabuza acknowledged that maladministration had resulted in a loss of trust and confidence in its governance processes and negatively impacted its reputation. He said a number of issues had led to investigations into governance practices, including allegations of impropriety and liquidity concerns.

“In many instances, the problem was not a failure of our internal controls, but management override of those controls,” he said. Koko eventually resigned this year, charging that his decision to leave the utility was not an admission of guilt.

Govender, who was project leader on the McKinsey contract, was suspended along with  Mabelane and Kalima after a forensic review by Bowman Gilfillan recommended this step, pending further investigation of their roles in Eskom paying advisory firm Trillian R500 million in fees without a contract or evidence of work. 

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said an ongoing internal investigation would likely uncover more executives who would need to make representations over their innocence or otherwise. 

“There are others who will be asked to present their case. They will have to say what has led to some of these decisions, they will have to give the who, why, when and how of some of these matters,” Phasiwe said.

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