More doubts over power utility’s allegations
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DURBAN - LEAKED Eskom Internal documents and emails between the entity’s officials reveal that there was no evidence implicating the managing director of oil company Econ Oil, as alleged in court papers, to justify cancelling its contract.
Reports accused Nothemba Mlonzi of attempting to unduly influence Eskom officials to act to the benefit of her company. Documents, however, reveal that some of Eskom’s officials, led by group chief executive André de Ruyter have no corroborating evidence.
Mlonzi was accused of trying to get them to share a competitor’s pricing in the Eskom tender CORP 4786, which bidders competed for.
A series of emails in the Daily News’ possession indicate that Mlonzi was transparent in her consistent interactions with Eskom, and did not attempt to influence officials to act in her favour. Further, it reflected that she did not overcharge Eskom as the law firm Bowmans indicated in its report. The firm was apparently irregularly appointed and had no mandate to probe Econ Oil.
What happened between Mlonzi and Eskom officials alleging she attempted to unduly influence them and what has the Daily News learnt?
The claim as Bowmans found in its investigation, that Mlonzi fraudulently attempted to influence officials, is based on an inquiry about a tender Econ Oil had lost to a competitor. Mlonzi subsequently wrote an open email on August 2, 2017 to three Eskom officials, including Marumo Lekoto – a senior procurement manager – requesting to invoke the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. This allows for Econ to be provided with information indicating how it lost the tender at the time.
Further, allegations about Eskom former senior manager for business Thandi Marah’s email to influence other officials to change prices in favour of Econ allegedly written on July 29, 2017 appear to be strange. This is because the tender was already implemented and could never be changed, even if requested.
Bowmans’ report found that Marah solicited donations from Mlonzi to the ANC Liliesleaf branch, which she chaired, and to other causes. She further leaked, allegedly at Mlonzi’s request, confidential supplier pricing information to Econ and pressured other Eskom officials to award further work to Econ.
In another leaked email written to procurement manager Boiketlo Mashila on March 8, 2017, Econ Oil complained to Mashile and requested that contract manager Ntuthuko Zulu be removed from managing the Econ portfolio at Eskom as he was allegedly involved in sabotaging the oil supplier.
Econ argued that Zulu was changing oil orders at the Kusile power station, which was Econ Oil’s designated site. Econ Oil alleged that the orders were redirected to FFS refineries which had no tender to render services at Kusile.
A source, who asked not to be named, told the Daily News that Zulu had a close relationship with FFS executives. Zulu had allegedly attended a meeting with FFS executives at the Oyster Box Hotel in Durban.
Asked about the allegations, Zulu declined to comment and requested for all questions to be sent to Eskom.
FFS board chairperson Mkhuseli Faku denied knowledge of the meeting. Company executives Henry Krause and Peter Sutcliff denied the allegations, saying they too had no knowledge of the said meeting.
Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said: “The matters regarding Econ Oil and the related tender Corp 4786 are currently in the court process, where all parties will get fair and ample opportunity to state their respective cases before a competent and objective judge. Eskom will therefore not be commenting any further on these matters, now and in the future, as Eskom’s court submissions are sufficient to permit the court to deal with the matter.”
Bowmans has admitted in its report that there was no supporting evidence corroborating allegations made against Mlonzi. The Eskom and Econ court matter is set down for trial in the high court in Joburg from Wednesday until Friday.