JOHANNESBURG - Long-standing Eskom executive Mongezi Ntsokolo was, until November last year, a board member of independent power producer (IPP) Acwa SolAfrica Bokpoort Company.
Ntsokolo’s membership of Acwa’s board raises conflict of interest questions, because Eskom is a designated buyer of renewable energy power.
Acwa is one of the IPPs participating in the ongoing Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (Reippp) Programme.
Ntsokolo, Eskom’s executive for transmission, resigned from Acwa with effect from November 1 last year. An Eskom veteran, Ntsokolo has held high-profile positions at the power utility, including head of distribution and generation.
Prior to his resignation, Ntsokolo had been a board member of Acwa since 2013.
In May 2012, Acwa’s Bokpoort project was one of the 19 projects selected by the Department of Energy as the preferred bidders in the second window of the country’s IPP procurement programme.
Former Eskom interim chief executive Matshela Koko on Thursday took to Twitter to criticise his former colleague’s role as an Acwa board member.
Koko said Eskom’s policy prohibited employees from having a personal or other interest in an Eskom contract. This included third party-related transactions with indirect links to an Eskom contract.
Koko questioned Eskom’s choice of Ntsokolo to sign power purchase agreements with 27 IPPs. “In line with Eskom good corporate government practices, Mongezi Ntsokolo, who is a director in Acwa Power IPP, was authorised by the new Eskom board to sign the unlawful (contract) with 27 Reipps. Welcome to the New Dawn,” he tweeted.
Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe on Friday said Ntsokolo signed the IPPs in his capacity as head of transmission. “It is the transmission business that will connect the IPPs to the national grid,” said Phasiwe.
Ntsokolo last year denied that his involvement with Acwa amounted to a conflict of interest. In a memorandum - dated 6 October 2017 - to former Eskom interim chief executive Johnny Dladla, Ntsokolo said, as early as 2007, it had been Eskom’s practice to encourage members of its executive team to serve as independent board members of external companies.
“The benefit to Eskom would be exposure to corporate governance, career growth, business and technical contribution to such companies by (Eskom’s executive committee) members and enhancement of Eskom’s influence into the industry,” said Ntsokolo in the correspondence.
As a result, Eskom’s executive committee members had served in a number of companies, including the Public Investment Corporation, Industrial Development Corporation, Nedbank, Standard Bank, CSIR and the City of Johannesburg.
“Although these companies carry out business with Eskom, it was never viewed as a conflict of interest,” Ntsokolo said.
He said he had been declaring his role at Acwa since his appointment in September 2013. He was not a shareholder of Acwa and had no private interests in it, he said, while the commercial contract with Acwa was concluded prior to his appointment to the board. He said he had no influence over the contract.
Ntsokolo said Acwa’s board discussions were of a technical and project management nature, “and have never been of a commercial nature”