Former Trillian CEO Bianca Goodson challenges lawmakers to compensate whistleblowers
Johannesburg - A former chief executive who spoke out about the dubious deals between the Guptas, Trillian, McKinsey and Eskom is appealing to the country's lawmakers to look into legislation that would essentially reward whistleblowers for exposing corruption.
Former Trillian Management Consulting chief executive Bianca Goodson resigned from her C-suite job just after two months in 2016 when she realised that the company was not committed to its notion that it would be a "proudly black consulting firm".
Three years ago, she told Parliament that she had discovered there was no intention for the company to develop capacity, but instead its role appeared to secure lucrative State contracts with companies like consulting firm McKinsey and earn large sums for doing very little work.
She resigned and approached former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and informed her about what was happening. Through her whistleblowing, Eskom recovered over R1.6bn from the dodgy deals, but she has been stuck in limbo since, struggling to find work, now divorced and also recovering from post traumatic stress disorder.
In a letter to Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter, she suggested that whistleblowers should be nominally compensated for the personal toll on their lives that comes with whistle blowing.
De Ruyter turned down the risk, pointing out to her that there was no legislation which allowed for this. However, de Ruyter has invited Goodson to speak to a group of senior executives and managers at the power utility - for a small fee - so that they can learn from her experience.
But while speaking to Talk Radio 702 on Wednesday, Goodson agreed with de Ruyter and said the discussion is one that should be directed to lawmakers in Parliament.
“I must be honest, maybe it was unfair to pose that request to him because Mr De Ruyter is compelled to comply with law, he is not a lawmaker.
“As far as I know, there is no provision in the PFMA for this kind of request to be adhered to, so he has to make sure every single cent that is spent at Eskom is compliant with the PFMA.
“That request for whistleblowers in my opinion should be escalated to people that deal with legislation in the country (Parliament).
“However with that said, Mr De Ruyter did reply to me to say…’You made a very substantial contribution to the recovery of Eskom funds that were unlawfully paid during the height of State Capture to which we are deeply grateful for’,” said Goodson.
She said she was grateful that De Ruyter had given her the due recognition and said her intention with her letter to him was for the conversation about the compensation of whistleblowers to be started because there was “not enough done for whistleblowers”.
“A lot of people say my letter has been heartbreaking, but I think that what’s important is to tell everybody that I still remain hopeful. That I got this recognition and got this letter last night, it is important in encouraging other people to do the right thing,” she said.
Goodson however said the whistleblowing had come at a personal cost to her and her family. She lost her husband as a result after the couple divorced - with the whistleblowing matter front and centre of their quarrels and her parents constantly live in fear for her.
“At the time I was working on the Eskom-McKinsley matter and at the time it had a value of about R10bn. You certainly think to yourself what would people do for a billion. You think to yourself that they could hurt you for that quantum of money.
“You do think that your family would be compromised. It was scary. To say it was traumatic is an understatement. It really was, there were times when I believed people were following me and I lived in paranoia, it was insane.
“At least after I resigned, there was so much information that came out in the public domain which validated that it was the right thing to do at the time,” she said.
She is also receiving care at a psychiatric hospital for her PTSD condition.
“The first thing is that I suffered trauma… I thought trauma was only for victims of heinous crimes, I did not realise that what I went through was trauma, but it has been confirmed now that I suffered trauma and I am being treated on a weekly basis for post traumatic stress disorder, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital earlier this year.
“It’s taken its toll on my 8-year-old daughter and my mother is riddled with anxiety. With that, I left working with Sygnia, but I couldn’t work, I couldn’t wake up, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t do anything, I was just crying and depressed all the time,” she said.
She cashed in her pension to support herself and her daughter in the hope that she would find work again, but it has not happened.
“Unfortunately, since then I haven’t been able to find permanent employment, it’s been a personal cost and it has been traumatic to my ex-husband and I. He feared for our family, which I don’t blame him.
“His approach to me blowing the whistle created a complex between the two of us which resulted in divorce.
“And my parents as well, I felt so bad for the way they lived in fear for me. They always said Bianca this is not what we wanted for you and they say that with pride. They are proud of what I have done, but they never wanted these consequences,” she said.
Goodson said she had no regrets about blowing the whistle.
“When I think about the wheels of justice and the way they are turning in the country I think it was absolutely worth it.
“We got the Zondo Commission out of it and we see recently that for whistleblowers we can see the benefits to the country at the moment, so I do not regret it in that regard to make the country a better place.
“But from a personal cost perspective I do sometimes doubt it was worth it,” she said.