File photo: INLSA

JOHANNESBURG - France Hlakudi, a senior manager at the centre of allegations of corruption at Eskom’s Kusile power station in Mpumalanga, has resigned with immediate effect, Eskom confirmed yesterday. 

Eskom said Hlakudi resigned on Monday, leaving the troubled power utility under a cloud. His resignation could have far reaching implications for suspended executive Matshela Koko’s ongoing disciplinary process as he is one of the witnesses the power utility has lined up. As a former employee, he has no obligation to participate in the hearings. 

Commenting on the impact of Hlakudi’s departure on Koko’s case, Eskom yesterday (TUE), Eskom said it could only request Hlakudi to give evidence at the hearings. “If he refuses there is nothing that Eskom can do as he is no longer an Eskom employee since his resignation with immediate effect,” said Eskom in a statement. Attempts to get comment from Hlakudi yesterday (TUE) were not successful. 

Also read: Eskom in kickback scandal at Kusile

Eskom has charged Koko for “usurping” the authority of some of the members of Eskom’s executive team when he was interim chief executive. In its charge sheet, Eskom has alleged that Koko issued instructions to Kusile Project Director Frans Sithole, who has since left Eskom, to remove Hlakudi from the Kusile project. 

Eskom recently suspended Hlakudi, formerly a senior manager for contract management at Kusile, while its Assurance and Forensic Division conducts an internal investigation on the allegations at Kusile. Eskom has also referred the matter to the police. The utility has opened a case at Bedfordview. 

This was after Eskom board chairman Zethembe Khoza received an anonymous letter in September which alleged that Eskom had allegedly paid millions of rands to a subcontractor Tubular Construction Projects (TCP) at its Kusile power station in Mpumalanga, even though the power utility did not have a direct contract with the company at the time. 

According to the letter, Eskom paid more than R170 million to TCP. In turn, according to the letter, TCP paid kickbacks to key staff at Kusile. 

Have you read: Matshela Koko says Eskom employees receive bribes from power station

Business Report (BR) last week reported that Eskom made payments to TCP before the two entities signed a contract on April 29, 2016. The contract was for the erection of an air cooled condenser (ACC) for Kusile’s Unit 4 to Unit 6. In January 2008, Eskom entered into a turbine generator works contract with Alstom. It, in turn, subcontracted DB Thermal for the ACC contract. DB Thermal then entered into a contract with TCP for the erection of the ACC.