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JOHANNESBURG - Eskom executives and senior managers would be subjected to independent lifestyle and conflict of interest audits as part of the power utility’s efforts to root out corruption, Eskom said on Friday.

Eskom has been embroiled in a number of scandals which point to governance failures and apparent lack of accountability.

The newly appointed board have vowed to address governance problems at the utility.

“Our mandate is non-negotiable: we need to root out financial mismanagement, malfeasance and maladministration as a critical foundation to restoring transparent and effective governance,” said Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza last week.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe on Friday said the utility’s board had decided to implement the audit. The audit would affect Eskom’s executive team, senior managers and middle managers. There were 400 senior managers at Eskom, he said.

Mabuza last week issued a stern ultimatum to employees involved in improper conduct. “We cannot have Eskom people supplying to Eskom. Either you choose to be an employee or a supplier. For all those doing this, we are giving you 10 days to come clean or face termination,” he said.

Review of contracts

Mabuza said the power utility was reviewing 160 contracts worth more than R1billion as well as more than 5000 contracts worth less than R1bn. Eskom has also set its sights on so-called emergency procurement over the past two years.

Eskom’s former interim chief executive Sean Maritz first raised the lifestyle and conflict of interest audit at the National Energy Regulator of South Africa's public hearings on Eskom’s tariff application in November last year. At the time, Maritz said Eskom had "adopted a five-path plan to rebuild a robust governance process and preserve our core value of integrity.

"This includes strengthening our general internal ethics and fraud framework, where we have reviewed and approved our ethics and fraud management policy,” he said.

However, Maritz’s own stay at Eskom could be cut short after current interim chief executive Phakamani Hadebe suspended him last week. Eskom on Wednesday said it had converted Maritz’s “temporary” suspension into a “permanent” one.

Maritz allegedly signed off on a R400million payment to a Hong Kong bank account. This was apparently a kickback paid to secure a R25bn loan from China’s Huarong Energy Africa to build or refurbish power stations last year.

He also wrote the perplexing letter in which the old Eskom board - under the chairmanship of Zethembe Khoza - informed global management consulting group McKinsey that McKinsey’s contract with Eskom was lawful.

In the same letter, Maritz reportedly maintained that McKinsey should repay the R1bn paid to it in terms of the now “lawful” contract.

Meanwhile, suspended Eskom senior executive Matshela Koko’s bid to stop the utility from firing him is due to go to the Labour Court tomorrow. Koko, who was suspended on Wednesday, went to the Labour Court to interdict Eskom from removing him after Hadebe had given him an ultimatum either to resign or be axed.