Picture: EPA

JOHANNESBURG - The Eskom board is once again coming under fire in parliament yesterday over how it axed former executives and pushed through a tender deal R1 billion for information technology and maintenance at power stations. 

Former chief executive Tshediso Matona and group executive for enterprise development Erica Johnson told of fights over procurement and The New Age breakfast deal worth R43 million when the utility was in financial distress.

Matona told the inquiry into state capture that Eskom was already facing a cash crisis when he was still the department of public enterprises’ director-general. 

This resulted in the R23 billion secured after the government sold its 13.91 percent Vodacom stake in 2015.

In addition, the government converted its loan of R60bn into equity.

Matona said by the time he joined Eskom in October 2014, its board was already besieged by internal squabbles over tenders.

“By the time I arrived at Eskom there was tension. You can call it turmoil. There was serious infighting at the Eskom board largely to do with procurement,” he said.

He said one of the issues at stake were various multi-million rand contracts.

He said he was shocked when he was suspended in March 2015 after only five months into the job.

He said he did not buy the board’s story that his suspension had to do with the state of affairs at Eskom.

“I could not buy that because the problems of the company were clear at the time. We were working on those problems. I expressed my dissatisfaction of an investigation and least of all, my removal. At the time I did not know the same thing was proposed for the other executives. I believe that action was wrong,” he said.

He said the environment had become so unbearable he would not have gone back even if he wanted to.

He reached a settlement with Eskom after the Labour Court and CCMA processes.

Johnson said former acting chief executive Collin Matjila had pushed through The New Age breakfast deal worth R43m despite the fact that Eskom was in dire straits. Johnson also said Eskom extended the IT and maintenance contract, worth R1bn, with a service provider despite three other companies shortlisted. 

She said the service provider had not been one of the three companies that were shortlisted for the contract.

“The bidding process was stopped and the contract was extended for a period, that is two years,” said Johnson.

She also said there was a climate of fear that started to develop during that time. Some of the senior people were suspended at Eskom. She said she was concerned that general managers were not talking in the company.